Bath-Highland Telecommunications Team Takes Next Step
For the past two years, Bath and Highland counties have been working to assess and identify the telecommunications needs of the area in relation to a successful broadband network. With the assistance of a Community Development Block Grant from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, which was facilitated by the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission, the counties have recently completed a Community Broadband Strategic Telecommunications Plan. The plan is part of the Virginia Rural Broadband Planning Initiative, which seeks to identify and develop all elements of a successful community broadband network. Both counties have identified broadband development as crucial to future education, medical and economic development needs.
After an assessment of the needs and current infrastructure, the consultants who developed the plan, Gateway Corporation and Dewberry, provided the counties with a number of options to move forward in connecting more households to broadband. The reports conclusions recommended that the counties can best meet that stated goal by partnering with private sector providers in implementing a variety of those proposed solutions.
The Board of Supervisors from both counties agreed to take the next step in the process by sending a Letter of Interest to the DHCD, to pursue funding to move from planning to implementation. 24 such letters were submitted, and Bath and Highland’s were one of 13 approved.
Robbert Huff, regional planner for CSPDC, explained that a requirement of the Phase II application is creation of a stakeholder group to engage the community (in particular the business community, as well as, healthcare and public safety services) and document the specific needs, challenges, and next steps. The state is fast-tracking this funding, so the need to receive feedback quickly is critical. The Bath-Highland Broadband Network Team has scheduled a meeting for Tuesday, July 28th, at 10:00 am, at the Bolar Ruritan Club. Huff urged any business owners (including home-based businesses) that may be challenged by inadequate internet or cellular services, to attend. For more information, you can contact him at 540-885-5174 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.