Mon09222014

Last updateThu, 19 Nov 2015 8pm

   20140901MetroCastweb

Board hears more complaints about access to broadband service

The King George Wireless Authority heard from a couple of new residents asking for assistance in obtaining high speed broadband Internet service at their residence at a reasonable cost.

The comments were made at last week’s meeting during public comment time on June 25 by Rusty Huyck

and Karen Huyck.

The Huycks said they were speaking for others who also live on Poplar Road, as well as for many residents and across the county who can’t get access to Internet at a reasonable price.
Welcome to country living.

The Huycks and others are encountering the same “last mile” issues that often come with living in rural areas. Last mile is the term the industry uses to refer to the final leg for delivering communications connectivity to retail customers, regardless of the actual distance from a tie-in.

It’s common for Internet and television service providers to put the cost burden on the residents in sparse areas, with most companies requiring a specific density of homes prior to investing in hookups.

The couple said they retired from the Coast Guard and moved to the county from Washington, D. C. “We need Internet,” they said. They moved to King George for the country living but still commute to Washington. They said they want Internet for home use, and that it would allow them to telecommute instead of driving 56 miles one-way for work commutes.  

The Huycks related that they are 2,148 feet from the hookup with the tie-in with Metrocast and that it would cost them $12,000 out-of-pocket to connect. That’s more than they can afford.

They said they are currently paying about $276 a month for a combination of services for their Internet services. They said Metrocast would be $177, if they could get it.

They wanted to know if the county could help. The Huycks asked, “What can you guys do to help us get Internet service?” Karen Huyck added, “Just imagine if you didn’t have Internet service where you work and you live.”

Unfortunately, there is little the county can do. It has tried. And tried again.

The Board members responded as best they could with Joe Grzeika saying, “I’m in the exact situation and use an aircard, too, and I feel your pain.” John LoBuglio echoed that.

Cedell Brooks said they “tried to find a solution and just don’t have an answer for you right now.” Ruby Brabo said she’d spoken with a Metrocast representative who said they would install lines where they had 30 homes on a one-mile stretch, or 12-15 homes on a one-mile stretch, if all would agree to sign a year-long commitment for service.

Dale Sisson briefly related the efforts the county had made when attempting to get Internet to all areas of the county. “It’s been a problem for a long time and that’s why we created the Wireless Authority,” Sisson said. He added that it is a function of the market. He related that after the Wireless Authority was created that a request for proposals was issued with only one provider responding.

“That was not successful,” Sisson said. He added, “We’ve all dealt with it as the part of the realities of country living and it’s part of the trade off for some of us.”

In fact, the county loaned Virginia Broadband as part of its service agreement about $500,000 that was to have been paid back. The dispute is part of a legal action initiated by the county against the provider, which has since filed for bankruptcy.

Sisson pledged, “The focus of our Wireless Authority was to reach those who were underserved and we’ll continue to work it.”

The county issued another request for proposals less than a year ago and it was determined last August that no responsible responsive bidder came forward.

A Metrocast representative is expected to attend the next meeting of the Board of Supervisors on July 16. The county has a franchise agreement with Metrocast, but that is for cable television. The county has no control over the cable company in regard to Internet service, other than a desire on both sides for goodwill.

 

BACKGROUND
The King George County Wireless Authority had been established in December 2006 following enabling legislation by the General Assembly to provide an avenue for rural localities to attempt to secure high speed Internet service for its far-flung residents.

King George was one of the first localities to use the new legislation in its diligent attempt to provide high speed Internet access to its rural residents.

After jumping through numerous hoops required by the enabling legislation, the county had selected Virginia Broadband from among others providing proposals during its competitive procurement process.

The agreement between the two parties allowed Virginia Broadband to use existing county-owned or controlled structures, including cell towers and water towers, to install equipment through a lease arrangement in an effort to obtain high-speed Internet broadband access throughout the county and oversee its operation and management.

That effort proved to be unsuccessful. The company is in bankruptcy and the county is pursuing payback of about $500,000 plus interest that was loaned as part of the service provision.

Despite the Wireless Authority’s efforts to enforce the terms of the agreement, the goals of the project to provide high speed Internet service throughout the county did not happen.

In the meantime, Metrocast Cable, the county’s only cable television franchise, has expanded its service to become a provider of high speed Internet to customers within its service area.

In addition, Verizon FIOS has become available to residents in some areas of the county to also provide high speed Internet service.

Many residents who do not have access to Metrocast or Verizon FIOS have discovered that their best bet for high speed Internet service is to access it through their cell phone service.

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