New Kent supervisors OK design funds for broadband project

Supervisors approved a $19,000 contract for broadband internet design services Wednesday. The initial design phase is expected to be completed in 160 days, according to the project proposal. AcelaNet, a Virginia-based internet company, will conduct the design work. The design project comes after the county conducted a broadband internet study to assess need, potential partnerships and strategies to improve broadband service. Supervisors received that data earlier this year.

“We’re now taking it one step further to the actual design of a system to be constructed,” County Administrator Rodney Hathaway said.

AcelaNet will conduct field studies and take stock of existing county documentation and fiber resources to determine areas of need and where to construct equipment to establish a county-wide wireless and fiber broadband network. E according to the project proposal. New Kent already possesses fiber infrastructure in the courthouse area and along Route 106 near the Charles City line. About half the county has internet access through broadband provided by Cox Cable and DSL from Verizon.

Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the contract.

“This is the number one issue right now in the county,” Supervisor Thomas Evelyn said. Officials discussed to what extent the project will be able to provide broadband service to the entire county. The eventual broadband network is expected to provide service throughout the county, though some areas with greater tree cover may require additional equipment, such as signal poles, to provide service to residents, county administrator Rodney Hathaway said.

“How many poles are you talking about? One for every house?” Supervisor C.

Thomas Tiller asked. Several houses can share a signal pole, Hathaway said. Once design work wraps up, AcelaNet will be ready to build the system’s infrastructure and function as the internet service provider.

AcelaNet has designed and built a rural wireless internet services provider network covering a large area of central Virginia and has provided internet service since 2006, according to the project design proposal.

A survey completed as part of the initial broadband internet study found that of 1,595 respondents, 87 percent desired better service.

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