Some parts of rural Suffolk could have broadband access within weeks
Published 7:34 pm Friday, August 19, 2022
In a matter of weeks, a few hundred residents in rural parts of Suffolk could be the first among about 12,000 homes in the city and Isle of Wight and Southampton counties to have access to broadband service as part of a $37.2 million project to bring such service to rural areas of the region.
Eric Collins, director of government relations for Charter Communications, told City Council during its Wednesday work session that construction of the 2,200-plus miles of broadband infrastructure is underway. Groundbreaking for the project took place July 14.
He said it leveraged its federal Rural Digital Opportunity Fund award with the $21.1 million Virginia Telecommunications Initiative grant received from the state Department of Housing and Community Development to bolster the scoring of the VATI application, thereby committing itself to building out its broadband infrastructure for both grant awards over the next three years. Negotiations with the state increased the grant to $22.7 million. Charter and the three localities are collectively contributing another $14.5 million
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Collins said it just signed a contract to build out the entire network among the three localities within three years.
“There’s circumstances that we can’t control, but the plan is 36 months barring any delays that might come before us,” Collins said. “But we’re on track. We had some initial delays early on, but we got through that.”
The project started in Suffolk, and Collins said it would finish its work in the city before moving to Isle of Wight and then Southampton counties.
“What that means is that we should be completed with the city of Suffolk well before the 36 months,” Collins said, and that includes the RDOF and the VATI award.”
Charter, which operates as Spectrum in the city, is building what Collins called a “fiber to the premises” product. That refers to fiber going all the way to each resident and the equipment being used is designed for residential applications.
Collins said it is future-proof to account for emerging technologies.
“What we’re building will bolster and host any additional services, products or any changes that will come in technology in the future,” Collins said.
Charter said it has combined its broadband buildout among areas covered by both the RDOF and VATI grants because some parts overlap with one another.
He said in the next three weeks, it would be releasing two nodes and testing those in areas in the Whaleyville Borough. Once this is completed, residents who live on the following roads — Deer Forest, Adams Swamp, Cherry Grove, Greenway, Carolina, Gates Run, Desert, Clay Hill and White Marsh — will be able to get broadband from Spectrum, serving 277 residences. Of them, 175 are in RDOF locations and 102 in VATI locations.
Charter officials expect to update council on the progress of the project sometime in mid-winter, and encouraged residents to visit the city’s website at suffolkva.us/broadband for project updates once specific areas of the city gain broadband access.
“We’re making good progress out in the rural part of our city regarding the broadband infrastructure,” said Deputy City Manager Kevin Hughes.
Councilman Tim Johnson said people are excited to see the work underway.
“I’m from the Holy Neck Borough and you guys are already out there and we appreciate it,” Johnson said. “And hopefully, we’ll have it all the way down (U.S. Route) 58 when we’re finished as well.”