Monkton, Md.-based Freedom Telecom Services Inc. proposes building a 129-mile network of “dark” — or private, dedicated — fiber optic cable that would reach Fauquier’s extremities. It would connect 39 public buildings directly to the network and make access available to “last-mile” providers for service to remote homes and businesses that lack broadband.
A Maryland company has proposed construction of a 129-mile fiber optic cable network to provide broadband service to rural areas of Fauquier County.
The county supervisors last week voted, 4-0, to accept the preliminary, conceptual plan from Freedom Telecom Services Inc., doing business as FTS Fiber1. Founded in 2015, the Monkton, Md., firm would run dedicated fiber optic cable2 throughout Fauquier — from Goldvein to Upperville and Remington to Catlett — according to its 253-page proposal. It would connect schools, libraries, fire/rescue stations and other public buildings directly to the fiber network. Submitted under Virginia’s Public Private Education and Infrastructure Act, the proposal must compete with any bid that another firm might offer in the next 45 days. After review, county officials plan to select a contractor with which to negotiate a final contract. Financial details of the FTS proposal remain secret, redacted from the public version of its submission, under provisions of state law. > FTS proposal at bottom of story
Fauquier’s board of supervisors has committed to invest up to $20 million in a rural broadband solution. “I love where we are right now,” board Chairman Rick Gerhardt (Cedar Run District) said last week. “We haven’t made any decision. It’s a Virginia public-private process from here on out.
“I think at the end of the day, we’ll get a very good project.” FTS recently built a similar network of 110 miles3 for rural Kent County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Under the county plan, Fauquier’s new broadband authority — with the supervisors as its board of directors — would provide capital to build the fiber optic backbone.
The selected network company would sell access to “last mile” providers that serve homeowners and businesses. The authority would share revenue, used to repay the county’s investment. Center District Supervisor Chris Granger said he didn’t want Warrenton and the surrounding area, which has the county’s best internet service options, to get left out.
“I worry this could put my district at a competitive disadvantage,” Mr. Granger said. “There’s not fiber like this in town.” But, Mr. Gerhardt predicted that building a county fiber network would improve options in already-served areas, including Warrenton. Comcast and Verizon would face new competition, which should benefit consumers throughout the county, he added. “I expect any final offer to provide fiber to homes in Warrenton and other areas,” even though the plan calls for extending broadband to remote areas as its primary focus, Mr. Gerhardt said. The FTS plan calls for installing fiber optic cable underground and on utility poles in four phases: o May/June 2018 — From Goldvein to Bealeton and Catlett, connecting 15 public sites, including parks, schools, fire/rescue stations, libraries and trash/recycling centers.
o February 2019 — From Bealeton to Remington and Warrenton, New Baltimore and Vint Hill, connecting 11 public sites. o November/December 2019 — Warrenton west along Route 211 to the Rappahannock River, and Warrenton north to Marshall, The Plains and New Baltimore, connecting seven public sites. o October 2020 — Marshall to Orlean along Route 688, and Marshall to Linden, Rectortown and Upperville, connecting six public sites. The FTS proposal presumably would make it practical for wireless service providers to reach more than 90 percent of the county with broadband. Wi4ME LLC of McLean also made a proposal to provide rural broadband in Fauqiuer. “The other company is basically a startup,” Supervisor Chris Butler (Lee) said. “The move to FTS seems best to me.”
Mr. Gerhardt, who has led the county’s broadband effort, said improving service — particularly in rural areas — remains one of the board’s top priorities. “Our ultimate goal is to engage with a proposer who is willing to build a revenue-producing infrastructure that provides needed connectivity to county assets, facilitates last mile solutions and offers ROI (return on investment) for the county through revenue sharing and economic expansion,” he said last Thursday, reading from a prepared statement.
“I’d like to emphasize, once again, that this board has no intention of spending $20 million to merely provide broadband for only 10,000 households,” Mr. Gerhardt said. “That notion is simply false. We see this is a substantial project with multiple wins for individual households, commercial businesses and the county as a whole.”
FTS founder and CEO failed to return phone messages seeking comment about his company and its proposal for Fauquier. Supervisor Holder Trumbo (Scott) missed last Thursday’s special meeting.
Fauquier County is advertising for proposals to lay a fiber network to expand broadband service. The board of supervisors on Sept.
21 accepted an unsolicited proposal from Freedom Telecom Services of Monkton, Maryland. In doing so, it must now seek competing proposals. Under the Public-Private Education and Infrastructure Act, the county has 10 business days following acceptance of an unsolicited proposal to advertise for others. There’s a 45-day window for competitors to submit. Besides FTS, the county’s procurement division also received an unsolicited proposal from Wi4ME, LLC, of McLean. The supervisors accepted the FTS proposal by a 4-0 vote.
Scott District Supervisor Holder Trumbo was absent. The board picked FTS because its “conceptual design provides an extensive fiber optic infrastructure that has the ability to serve Fauquier County residents, businesses, schools and government both now and well into the future,” said Supervisors Chairman Rick Gerhardt in a prepared statement. Of the two proposals, FTS has the only proven track record and tested business model, one that’s deployed in Kent County, Maryland, Gerhardt said. Gerhardt, Marshall District Supervisor Mary Leigh McDaniel and Deputy County Administrator Katie Heritage visited Kent County earlier this year to see the service FTS installed there. FTS is proposing a public-private partnership that will enable the county to receive future returns on investment, Gerhardt said. Those returns can offset the county’s expenditures on the overall broadband project. FTS has worked with last-mile service providers and commercial entities dependent on fiber in its previous work.
The county has $20 million budgeted in the capital improvements project list for broadband. “This is a substantial project with multiple wins for individual households, commercial businesses and the county as a whole” and goes beyond the 10,000 underserved and unserved households, Gerhardt said. “Our ultimate goal is to engage with a proposer who is willing to build a revenue-producing infrastructure that provides needed connectivity to county assets, facilitates last-mile solutions, and offers return on investment for the county through revenue sharing and economic expansion,” Gerhardt said.
He said he also expects it to provide competition for major players like Verizon and Comcast.
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