Pulaski County Seeks Broadband Survey Participants
The Pulaski County Board of Supervisors, in collaboration with the County of Bland, announces a regional initiative to study broadband internet accessibility and capacity. This study is part of a larger three-county broadband project which includes Montgomery County and is in partnership with Appalachian Power and private internet service providers. The intent is to establish the demand and develop a plan to deploy fiber optic and other broadband infrastructure to both un-served and under-served areas of the three localities.
"Facilitating the deployment of broadband throughout Pulaski County remains a priority of the Board of Supervisors and we are pleased to be working creatively and expediently with Appalachian Power and with our neighbors to the east and west of us on this important project," stated Joe Guthrie, Chair, of the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors. "The initial step to advancing this project is a targeted study of our existing infrastructure and determining what download and upload speeds are available to residents and businesses throughout the County."
Montgomery County recently completed a similar comprehensive broadband study. Pulaski and Bland Counties are now working together with the same consultants (Thompson & Litton / Blue Ridge Advisory Services Group), to analyze their current broadband capacity.
Pulaski County residents are being asked to complete a short survey to assist in obtaining information for the study. The survey can be accessed from the following link: https://forms.gle/CVw7kV2pt1PX4Vcq7 As part of the survey, residents are requested to conduct an internet speed study using their home internet connection, not a cellular connection, and report back those findings. If residents do not have access to the internet, that information can be reported as well. Please notify Pulaski County Administration at: (540) 980-7705 with your name and street address so that this information can be recorded.
"The success of this next-level project relies heavily on our ability to capture the data necessary from the surveys to make the case that additional investments in broadband infrastructure are needed in these un- and under-served portions of Pulaski County and neighboring jurisdictions", stated Jonathan D. Sweet, County Administrator. "This exciting initiative is in addition to the substantial investments in infrastructure the County is currently making in both Snowville and Hiwassee to provide service availability to more than 2,000 of our citizens through fixed-based wireless solutions."
For the purpose of this study, the federal definition of broadband internet is being used which is service at 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds or higher. One of the goals of the study is to identify those areas of need in which a plan can be developed with Appalachian Power and private internet service providers to develop the appropriate infrastructure to effectively service those needs. It is critically necessary to get as many surveys back as possible to have a good knowledge of the current capacities.
The project will involve installing fiber optic cable upon Appalachian Power's utility poles, with the added benefit of providing a more robust communications platform for the company's deployment of new electric meters and distribution automation (DA). The new smart meters and DA equipment improve service reliability for power customers. Space on Appalachian Power's middle-mile fiber infrastructure will then be leased to qualified private internet service providers. Appalachian Power's pilot broadband projects are made possible by the 2018 Grid Security and Transformation Act, 2019 Broadband Pilot Program legislation. Grayson County is the site of the first pilot project of that act and this regional project is anticipated to be the next area to be developed.
Appalachian Power is currently developing a preliminary middle-mile fiber design. Following the broadband study of Pulaski and Bland Counties, Appalachian Power's intention is to file an application seeking project approval from the Virginia State Corporation Commission in the first half of 2021. The three-county pilot project is projected to serve approximately 15,000 new unserved broadband customers. The project involves installing a 96-strand fiber optic cable on Appalachian Power's utility poles consistent with the Grayson County project. This pilot project will require approval from the Virginia State Corporation Commission. State and federal grant funds may be necessary to further assist the localities and private internet service providers with the last-mile infrastructure buildout.