Pilot project to expand high speed broadband in Grayson County

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iNDEPENDENCE, Va. (WDBJ7) A new pilot project will expand high-speed broadband service in Grayson County.

Governor Ralph Northam joined other state and local leaders for the announcement Wednesday morning at the 1908 courthouse in Independence.

Legislation introduced by Delegate Israel O'Quinn made it possible.

Appalachian Power will build the fiber optic backbone.

And the company Gigabeam Networks will provide the high speed broadband to customers.

"I think this is the right answer at the right time," said Appalachian Power President Chris Beam.

"They will be one of the fastest connected counties in the state," said Gigabeam President Michael Clemons.

"You know our commitment really in the next few years is to make sure broadband is universal across the Commonwealth," Northam told reporters. "And this is a large step in that direction."

Residents of Grayson County say the upgrade is overdue.

"What this is going to do is... bring us in Grayson County up to the 21st century," said Karen Hollifield, a Galax chiropractor who lives in Elk Creek.

"Southwest Virginia has so much to offer. in terms of tourism," added Steve Marshall, owner of the kayak shop Paddleyax. "Businesses can come in and react to that influx of tourism if they have the broadband or the internet. And that is something that the county is sorely lacking, so we're looking forward to it."

The legislation takes effect in July, and Appalachian Power must submit its plans to the State Corporation Commission for approval.

When Gigabeam will roll out the new service is still unclear, but the company says it will move quickly once all of the pieces are in place.