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Montgomery County Public Schools expands internet access in rural communities

Published: Dec. 21, 2020 at 11:31 PM EST
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RINER, Va. (WDBJ) - Montgomery County Public Schools is getting creative with how it provides internet to families, especially those in the most rural areas of the county.

The view of the county is beautiful in Riner, but living there makes it difficult to get things done online.

“When the schools closed down last year we didn’t have any internet at all,” said Wendy Bishop.

From the moment school switched to virtual, Bishop has been working one-on-one with her grandchildren, trying their best to get schoolwork done.

“It was definitely difficult trying to do some everyday things,” Bishop said. “If we needed internet we hot spotted off of our phones. We would go to restaurants and actually do updates on our phones, because that was the only way we could do updates.”

That is until Friday last week, when All Points Broadband installed an internet receiver, supercharging their download and upload speeds.

“If our community is successful, then we are in turn successful as well,” said All Points Broadband Business Development Associate Jason Politis. “Providing high speed internet to areas that don’t already have it I think is a great way to strengthen our community.”

Politis did the install after surveying the property, finding a way to hook the Bishops up to their access points.

“We’re doing the best that we can during this pandemic,” said MCPS Director of Technology Doug Wickham.

He helped make this connection happen through a state Vision Grant, making it so families less connected can watch lessons in real time.

“It’s really critical at this time with what’s going on with the pandemic that we get our kids in front of the experts,” Wickham said.

For the first time Monday, all Bishop’s grandkids could be online at the same time.

“It’s been a blessing to us for them to do this,” Bishop said. We appreciate it.”

Through this CARES Act grant, Montgomery County Public Schools is able to provide internet access and equipment for free for one year. They are hopeful to cover at least 125 families who can’t get access.

The county also has a temporary fix, but it has plans to expand access even more in the new year.

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