(The County of Bland, Virginia) – Bland County, in collaboration with Pulaski County, announces a regional initiative to study broadband internet accessibility and capacity. This study is part of a larger three county project, which includes Montgomery County, in correlation with Appalachian Power and internet service providers in the deployment of fiberoptic and other broadband infrastructure to un-served and under-served areas of the three localities.
“We are excited to be working with Appalachian Power and with our neighboring counties on this project,” stated Adam Kidd, chair of the Bland County Board of Supervisors. “The first step in this initiative is the study of existing infrastructure and determines the capacity of download and upload speeds available to residents and businesses throughout the county.” Montgomery Couty recently completed a comprehensive broadband study. Bland and Pulaski Counties are working together with the same consultants as Montgomery County, Thompson & Litton / Blue Ridge Advisory Services Group, to analyze the current broadband capacity.
Bland County residents are being asked to complete a short survey to assist in obtaining information for the study. The survey can be accessed from the Bland County website at www.blandcountyva.gov . As part of the survey, residents are requested to conduct an internet speed study using their home internet connection, not a cellular connection, and report those findings if they have an internet connection. If they do not have access to internet, that can be reported as well. Please notify Bland County Administration at 276-688-4622 with your name and street address and that information will be recorded. For this study, the federal definition of broadband internet is being used which is service at 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds or higher. One of the goals of the study is to identify those areas of need in which a plan can be developed with Appalachian Power and internet service providers to develop the appropriate infrastructure to rectify those needs. It is necessary to get as many surveys back as possible to have a good knowledge
of the current capacities.
The project involves installing fiber optic cable on Appalachian Power’s utility poles, with the added benefit of providing a more robust communications platform for the company’s deployment of new electric meters and distribution automation (DA). The new smart meters and DA equipment improve service reliability for power customers. Space on Appalachian Power’s middle-mile fiber infrastructure is then leased to internet service providers. Appalachian Power’s pilot broadband projects are made possible by the 2018 Grid Security and Transformation Act, 2019 Broadband Pilot Program legislation. Grayson County is the site of the pilot project of that act and this regional project is anticipated to be the next area to be developed.
Appalachian Power is currently developing a preliminary middle-mile fiber design. Following the broadband study of Bland and Pulaski Counties, Appalachian Power’s intention is to file an application seeking project approval from the Virginia State Corporation Commission in the first half of 2021. The three-county pilot project is projecting to serve approximately 15,000 unserved broadband customers. The project involves installing a 96-strand fiber optic cable on Appalachian Power’s utility poles as with the Grayson County project. This pilot project will require approval from the Virginia State Corporation Commission. State and federal grant funds may be available to assist the localities and internet service providers with the last-mile infrastructure buildout.