Gigabit internet access changes broadband landscape in Floyd County

FLOYD, Va. (WDBJ) -- At Henry's Fresh and Healthy Pet Foods, products get shipped pretty much everywhere.

"You name it," said company president Leigh Nealy. "Saudi Arabia, China, Russia."

But the food's not for dogs or cats. It's for squirrels and other exotic pets that don't often get a nutritious diet.

With sales coming exclusively online, having access to quality broadband connection is critical.

"It was essential that we have high-speed internet, so that was a huge factor in choosing Floyd County in the first place," Nealy said.

Henry's is just one business that will benefit from Floyd County's upgraded gigabit internet access, provided by Citizens Telephone Cooperative.

Besides the impact to businesses, the company says gigabit-connected homes could increase in value by up to seven percent.

"Really we want broadband to be like electricity to our customers," said C.E.O. and general manager Greg Sapp. "It's there when you need it, and you don't have to think about how many devices you have connected. You just know they're going to work when you connect it."

By 2021, 97 percent of the county will have access to some of the fastest internet speeds in the state - a unique, and lucrative, situation for a rural county like Floyd.

"Even though we're not in a large metro area, we've got something that other people don't have and we've also got the quality of life," said Lydeana Martin, the county's community and economic development director. "So people can kind of have their cake and eat it too."

For an operation like Henry's, the innovation means the skies--or maybe the treetops--are the limit.

"It's our lifeblood," Nealy said. "The internet is literally our lifeblood, so it's not even a matter of 'Does it change anything?' It enables us to continue to live."