The Warren County Board of Commissioners received assurance during its Dec. 14 work session that plans to bring broadband internet access to all homes in the county are in the works.
Justin DeLancy, senior manager of Charter Government Affairs outlined the status of efforts to bring broadband access to the county, and was joined virtually by Joe Freddoso, chief operating officer of Mighty River, LLC, who has assisted the county on a consulting basis for several years.
“We have been working diligently to find a solution for broadband,” County Manager Vincent Jones told the board.
That process has covered almost three years, but efforts to secure funding sources were not successful. Jones previously reported that the county’s overall plan has been to develop a backbone of fiber optic technology that would allow expansion across the county and would enable service to be provided via fiber or WiFi. The state specifies that countries can put broadband infrastructure in place, but must partner with a provider for the service itself.
By July 2020, a potential new path to broadband service emerged with Phase I of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which offers federal communications subsidies for broadband enhancements. Charter/Spectrum was named the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund service provider for Warren County and most of North Carolina.
During last week’s work session, DeLancey described how the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund came about.
“The pandemic shown light on disparities across the state and country about broadband access,” he said.
The federal government development the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, DeLancey added.
“It was a federal reverse auction for all Census areas without providers with a bidding process,” he noted.
Delancey said that Charter will construct a fiber broadband system to the home that will offer range of services. A date for the start of construction has not been determined, but the target for completion is the end of 2023, he indicated.
The completed project would leave 2,000 homes in less dense area that are more difficult to reach without broadband access. However, DeLancey said that there is a solution.
“I believe we can come up with an attractive project for the approximately 2,000 homes that are left out,” he said. “I believe that we can work with the county to serve them.”
In response to commissioners’ questions, DeLancy explained that the Federal Communications Commission periodically develops maps which identify what internet provider serves particular Census blocks. The 2,000 homes are in Census blocks not claimed by a provider at this time, he noted.
Jones noted that the county will partner with Charter to solve the accessibility problem.
“We are working to partner with Charter to be able to cover everyone,” he said.
DeLancey indicated that construction planned as part of RDOF and construction to bring access to the 2,000 homes currently left out will take place at the same time.
More specific details about where the 2,000 homes are will become available in the future.
DeLancy is expected to provide progress reports to the county commissioners on a regular basis.
The board reached a consensus giving Jones the authority to move forward with broadband and partner with Charter to provide access to homes not covered by the RDOF project.