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King George seeking another partner for wireless broadband

The King George Wireless Authority is again seeking a private partner to operate as a wireless Internet service provider to provide broadband for residents and businesses throughout the rural county. 

The action to issue a request for information (RFI) took place at its last meeting on June 26. The RFI was issued on July 3, with the deadline for the submission of responses due to the county on August 2. (See below for details.)

LEGAL ACTION AGAINST VIRGINIA BROADBAND

As The Journal previously reported, the Wireless Authority took unanimous action last August 2011 to terminate its contract with Virginia Broadband, L.L.C., and to enforce the related agreements with the Internet service provider. The Wireless Authority followed up by filing a legal complaint for breach of contract against Virginia Broadband in December 2011. 

The company had been required to make annual loan repayments beginning in December 2008, with payback of about $500,000 plus interest to be completed by the end of 2012. None were made, despite letters of notice of loan default being sent to Virginia Broadband as time went by, along with notices of performance default. But the company did not attempt to resolve issues, providing few required reports and numerous requests for documents were often ignored. 

The Wireless Authority complaint against Virginia Broadband includes breach of its contract to make Internet service available to 95 percent of the county. At the time of a preliminary court hearing two months ago on May 9 it was not disputed in open court that the company only had about 20 customers in King George, along with the other facts noted above. No negotiation between the two sides is known to be taking place. 

There have been no further filings since Virginia Broadband lost its plea in May for injunction against the Wireless Authority for barring access to the middle school tower on which the company had installed equipment. But the breach of contract complaint is still an active court case with continuing legal action by King George expected to be pursued.

WHAT’S AVAILABLE NOW?

Right now, most county residents currently appear to have at least three options to access high speed broadband Internet service, along with other new providers sprouting up. 

Three reliable examples include Metrocast cable television and Verizon FIOS, with both providing Internet service to various areas of the county. Verizon FIOS has recently widened its coverage area. A third method recommended by some county residents is from their cell phone service providers providing access to high speed Internet service. 

REQUEST FOR INFORMATION

King George has not given up trying to close the gaps in wireless broadband service to enable its far-flung residents to connect to the internet. With this month’s issuance of another request for information, the Wireless Authority is giving that another try.

The RFI says it’s being issued for information and planning purposes which may be used to develop a comprehensive Request for Proposals (RFP) for contracted services. The process does not constitute a procurement process.

But the goal is to try to see if companies are interested in providing wireless Internet service, along with being responsible for deploying and operating the wireless broadband network, as well as marketing, sales, customer account billing and collections, customer service, and all other tasks relating to operating a fee based system.

At a minimum, firms responding must:  Be a legal entity licensed and permitted to design, construct, provide, operate and maintain wireless broadband systems in the Commonwealth of Virginia; have current experience providing wireless broadband services to rural communities; have proven compliance with local, state and federal standards, and regulations applicable to providing wireless broadband services; be well versed in options for the model or models that would be the most effective to King George; and, have verifiable experience with wireless broadband systems to include capital projects, operations, network and operation system maintenance, marketing, accounts receivable and payable, financing, permitting, and project management. 

Phyllis Cook

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