Montgomery County, VA partnered with GigaBeam Networks and the New River Valley Regional Commission to fill empty pockets with broadband bandwidth. As Roanoke.com reports, there are numerous small areas without internet access that could be reached with more extensive broadband outreach.
The project is awaiting a decision from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development’s Virginia Telecommunication Initiative that would free up $1 million in grant money. The county is prepared to match 10 percent of the grant, with GigaBeam supplying a combination of cash and in-kind contributions.
“We strongly believe this partnership is the only way to do it, to do it feasibly,” said GigaBeam founder and President, Michael Clemons. “If a private company could do it on their own, they would have already built it … but the numbers just don’t work. You have to have something to make up the difference.”
“What we’re talking about is helping almost 1,300 homes. It’s very exciting. It’s a start,” said the Board of Supervisors Chairman, Steve Fijalkowski. “I know our citizens have been looking for something to happen. Unfortunately, it does take time. There’s a lot of planning involved, including with GigaBeam.”
GigaBeam specializes in fixed wireless broadband. Its equipment is attached to poles and buildings and transmits signals to an antenna wired to a customer’s home. The company’s standard hook-up provides 10 to 50 mbps, a speed that sometimes falls below the FCC definition of “high speed internet.” Clemons says the equipment GigaBeam will install will raise the speed close to 100 mbps, and at a more affordable cost than fiber.
“I’m very hopeful that it does spur competition and that other internet service providers come forward and want to do other things,” said Fijalkowski. “But what it takes is probably somebody like GigaBeam to take that step.”