High-speed internet coming to Grayson County

Some people have little to no coverage

By Irisha Jones - Reporter

Over 600,000 Virginians don't have access to high-speed internet, and some of those people live in Grayson County. 

Grayson County leaders started working on a plan years ago to bring better broadband access to every household and business in the county. Now, it's finally happening. Some people currently have little to no coverage.

This move will give 100 percent of residents the option to have services such as fire departments in the western end of the county, where it's hard for them to communicate without internet said county leaders.

Karen Hollifield is a Grayson County resident who says she has under 1G of service. 

"Something that should have taken me 20 seconds took me 10 minutes," said Hollifield. With a home-based business, she relies heavily on the internet. She's happy about the new announcement. 

"I have people that I talk to and communicate with all over the world, and to sit there and get thrown off my internet when I trying to run a business, I'm thrilled, beyond thrilled."

Gov. Ralph Northam signed into law Wednesday a bill introduced by Delegate Israel O'Quinn that allows the county, an internet service provider and Appalachian Power to bring faster connections to the county.

"It allows us to run the bigger fiber so that we can use that to run middle mile infrastructure to get broadband service," said O'Quinn. 

O'Quinn represents the 5th District. The bill passed the General Assembly in the 2019 session.  

"It's actually going to lower the utility bills for the customers in this area while also providing internet service," he said.

It goes into effect July 1. 

The county and APCO will work with a internet service provider specializing in rural broadband.

"We're going to build the infrastructure in the background that GigaBeam will hook to to provide the broadband," said Chris Beam, president and chief operating officer of Appalachian Power. 

This is the first partnership of its kind for the commonwealth. Beam explain how Grayson County was chosen first. 

"We looked at what is the biggest territory we have where we are disconnected from our system. Then, we looked at what counties have the largest amount of unconnected folks from a broadband perspective. We did a cross-reference, and Grayson County is the answer to both of those questions," said Beam.

Northam says Grayson County will lead the way for universal broadband. 

"To work with the power company as they are improving and modernizing their grid and put some extra fiber down, and to lease that back to the broadband carriers and be able to get that to the last mile, it's very innovative," said Northam. 

People living in Grayson County can expect see fiber hung on utility poles in about a year.
 

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