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Broadband project advances in Franklin County

Published: Jul. 21, 2020 at 7:50 PM EDT
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ROCKY MOUNT, Va. (WDBJ) -In Franklin County, a project five years in the making could soon bring broadband service to 20,000 people.

Tuesday afternoon, the chairman of the county’s broadband authority signed contracts with representatives of Blue Ridge Towers and Shentel.

Phase one of the project includes a fixed wireless system that will use a dozen towers in the area. The plan also calls for the extension of fiber in some neighborhoods.

Steven Sandy is the county’s director of planning and community development.

“It’s been several years in the making to get here,” Sandy told reporters, “but this was a big step today to cross over into the construction phase and actually start to get people hooked up to the services.”

Construction should begin in the next month or two, and the wireless services could be available before the end of the year.

Click here for a map of approved areas.

Click here for a map of proposed 2021 areas.

Click here for a map of proposed 2022 areas.

Following is the text of a news release from Franklin County:

FRANKLIN COUNTY BROADBAND DEVELOPMENT CONTINUES TO MOVE FORWARD

For Immediate Release: July 20, 2020

Rocky Mount, Virginia – The Franklin County Broadband Authority invites you to attend a contract signing event at the Franklin County Government Center Board of Supervisors Meeting Room 1255 Franklin Street, Rocky Mount, VA at 1:00 p.m. on July 21, 2020.

This event will mark the approval of a $4.6 million broadband project in Franklin County. This project was made possible by $2.4 funding from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) as well as significant private investment by Blue Ridge Towers and Shenandoah Telecommunications Company (Shentel).

The project represents the deployment of Phase 1 of the County’s broadband initiative. In 2019, Franklin County developed a broadband plan to address the broadband issues in Franklin County. The Plan created a phased, hybrid approach to address the needs of the County. The Plan outlined the creation of a County wide fixed wireless system. This system would utilize existing structures where possible and require the construction of new towers in other areas. In addition, the Plan identified fiber to the home solutions in villages and other growth areas.

The County has partnered with Blue Ridge Towers and its subsidiary, Briscnet, to build, operate, and maintain this fixed wireless system. This initial phase involves construction of eight (8) new towers and colocation on another four (4) structures. This fixed wireless system is expected to provide service to nearly 20,000 Franklin County citizens when completed. The system will provide internet speeds from 25-100 mbps.

The Plan also provides for the extension of fiber in areas of the County where it is financially and physically feasible. In this effort, the County has partnered with Shentel to extend fiber to the home in many areas of the County where it is practical. This initial phase will involve extending fiber along Old Salem School Road in Union Hall to serve nearly 200 homes and businesses in this area.

The County and its partners have been preparing for these projects over the past several months and expects construction of these projects to begin in August. The total build-out of phase 1 is expected to be completed in late 2021.

Franklin County also received a $650,000 grant from the Virginia Tobacco Revitalization Commission in 2019 to extend fiber to over 650 homes and businesses. This project is expected to be completed in September 2020. The County also anticipates applying for additional funding from VA DHCD in August to begin phase 2 of the County’s broadband deployment plan.

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