King William broadband committee discusses system planning process

King William County Internet Connectivity Committee members discussed the broadband system planning process with a Center for Innovative Technology official at the committee’s meeting Wednesday. For the last two or three months, the Center for Innovative Technology has worked to create an assessment that will serve as a roadmap for a request for proposal for the project, which will outline a specific project plan King William can pitch to vendors to build a county broadband system. The total process to create a request for proposal and receive responses is expected to last about seven to 12 months, Center Director of Broadband Programs Chuck Kirby said.

The Center for Innovative Technology is technology-oriented economic development nonprofit. The committee intends to build a optical fiber network running down Route 30 and Route 360 to provide broadband internet service to at least 95 percent of the county. There isn’t a cost estimate on the project at this time and the center’s services don’t cost the county because the center is state funded.

Six firms involved in various aspects of broadband internet system creation and operation expressed interest in the county’s project during the request for information process several months ago.

The next step in the assessment is a public survey to determine needs in a way to guide creation of the request for proposal. The survey is expected to be available in January, committee chairman Ed Moren said. “It creates a much more comprehensive understanding,” Kirby said.

Some committee members balked at a survey. “I’m just looking for action at this point,” committee member Brian Hodges said. There have been several surveys related to broadband conducted in King William recently, including a survey conducted by the Center for Innovative Technology in 2016 and another survey conducted by the committee in March.

“There are aggregated data points we can pull from,” Hodges said. The committee survey provided unorganized data not connected to a tangible project and only served to determine whether there was a demand for improved internet. The new survey would be part of a specific program to create a broadband system, committee vice chairman Jay Brown said.

“This has a specific path process,” Brown said. The center’s previous survey lacks information that the request for proposal process requires, Kirby said. The overall process has the benefit of providing a better understanding of broadband needs and goals and also puts the county in a better position to secure grant funding in the future, Kirby said.

“You’ll be better situated than you were in the past,” Kirby said. The county project is concurrent with a regional push to create PamunkeyNet, which would provide broadband internet to the Middle Peninsula localities using their public safety radio infrastructure. The Pamunkey Indian Tribe would administer the system, which is estimated to cost £6 million to build.

Officials have said that King William’s system and Pamunkey could be coordinated in the future. The King William Board of Supervisors agreed to provide up to £5,000 as the county’s contribution toward planning and design work on PamunkeyNet in November. The money hasn’t been allocated yet and the final amount is dependent on the participation of other localities.

The King William Board of Supervisors set aside £225,000 for broadband internet efforts as part of the fiscal year 2017 budget, which would serve as the source for county funding of PamunkeyNet design planning. The Middle Peninsula Alliance, a regional economic development group, is pursuing a GoVirginia grant on behalf of the project’s design planning. The £133,000 needed for the PamunkeyNet design planning is expected to come in the form of £50,000 in funding contributions from about 20 localities and regional economic development groups in tandem with a matching £50,000 grant from GoVirginia and £33,000 of in-kind resources.

GoVirginia is a state economic development program that encourages localities to collaborate on economic development projects.

A decision on whether PamunkeyNet receives the grant is expected Feb.

13, said Liz Povar, Middle Peninsula Alliance executive director.

Jacobs can be reached by phone at 757-298-6007.

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