Reprinted with permission from the Virginian Review. This story appeared in the Thursday, Nov. 17, edition of the newspaper.
BY P.E. MARSHALL
CLIFTON FORGE — A short community meeting on the results of a Broadband study in the Alleghany Highlands was held at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College’s Moomaw Center in McCarthy Hall Tuesday evening.
Clifton Forge Town Manager Darlene Burcham opened the meeting by explaining that a Broadband study, using a $50,000 grant, began last fall “to evaluate Broadband needs in our community.
“After evaluating proposals from a number of consultants, our successful contract was awarded to Design Nine, Andrew Cohill. Cohill is credited with making Blacksburg a wired community,” concluded Burcham as she introduced Cohill.
Cohill, a Broadband architect, is the president and CEO of Design Nine, Inc. He explained the process, results and recommendations from the study.
“This is an interesting region,” began Cohill. “It’s beautiful but brings some challenges with the geography. Many residents still have dial-up or satellite and very limited cable service, making it very difficult to work from home or have a business at home,” said Cohill.
The study involved surveying businesses and residents and recommending strategies and solutions to improve Broadband affordability and accessibility.
It was made clear from the surveys that “customers are not satisfied with what they have today,” said Cohill.
Cohill recommended that the local governments form a regional authority as it’s easier to get grants and funding with a regional collaboration and communities won’t be competing with one another. He also recommended that the communities assist with making wireless more widely available (ie. tower space and making space available on county towers for wireless Internet service providers).
“There are plans to create an authority,” said Burcham. “We are seeking opportunities to see Broadband extensively in our community.”
The study included Craig and Alleghany counties, New Castle, Clifton Forge, Covington and northern Botetourt County.
The three major providers in the community, Lumos, Shentel and Frontier were invited. Lumos accepted the invitation and representatives were on hand to answer any questions.
Cohill pointed out that Lumos is making an effort to upgrade to fiber services.