BOTETOURT COUNTY, Va. – With the ceremonial cut of a ribbon, the 130-foot communication tower disguised as a silo on the back side of Blue Ridge Park officially became operational.
It is the first such tower the National Park Service has ever allowed to be built along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
"This is one of the few times in my career where I'm proud of myself," Blue Ridge Towers CEO Anthony Smith said.
Smith said the company spent about two years working with the National Park Service to get the tower approved and built.
"We settled on a grain silo because if you go up and down the Parkway, you'll see grain silos in different locations," Smith explained.
You'll now be able to get cell service up to 5 miles away from the tower along the Parkway if your cellphone company installs its equipment on the tower.
So far, Sprint is the only company that has done that.
"You're going to go from having zero bars to five," Smith said. "We hope to work with the National Park Service on at least 13 other sites."
The tower will also be used to provide broadband service to people who live and work around Blue Ridge Park.
It's located on land owned by Botetourt County.
County Administrator Gary Larrowe said this is an exciting opportunity for the county.
"We've been really working hard on broadband deployment and also increased cell service, so this actually checks both those boxes," said Larrowe.
Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority President Frank Smith Jr. said Blue Ridge Towers sees the future.
"He has good expansion plans," Smith Jr. said. "We see this as a strategic ingredient for economic development within the Roanoke Valley."
There's no timeline for the 13 other towers Blue Ridge Towers hopes to build.