Fiber Installation Underway in McDowell Area

Fiberoptic cable is currently being installed in the McDowell area by MGW Telephone.  A grant received earlier this year is providing funding to expand fiber availability for internet service.  Robert Huff, the Strategic Planning Director at MGW Telephone, explains.

“The grant from last spring was a VATI, a Virginia Telecommunication Initiative, project,” says Huff.  “That was the one that we partnered with Highland County and Augusta County on.  We just entered, back in July, into an eighteen-month state contract on that one and that one includes about 235 locations in the McDowell area.”

Installation is ongoing in multiple areas simultaneously.   MGW recently completed a project on Cowpasture River Road South and has completed installation off Jack Mountain Road near Doe Hill and on Keister Hollow Road.  Installation is underway now along Seldom Seen Road.

“So, in 1996 broadband was defined by the FCC as 200 Kbps by 200 Kbps which, as most know, today we would consider that dial up speed,” says Huff.  “Fast forward to 2010, the FCC defined it as 4 Mbps over 1 Mbps which was an improvement, but still not the bandwidth needed to carry on the activities of today.  By 2015, the FCC defined it as 25 over 3 and that new benchmark allowed for MGW and other companies to be eligible to get some supplemental funding to help upgrade these copper networks to fiber and expand fiber into new areas.  The dominoes have been falling in this direction for a while.  With COVID it really made everyone realize the importance of connectivity.  During the height of COVID, telecommunication needs rose to the top of the list of priority utilities.  I know for myself, with three school age kids, our most important things at that time were internet connectivity and groceries.   From a network standpoint, luckily when COVID hit, we did have fiber into all three Bath County Schools already.   The overnight need for virtual learning was obviously a challenge, so we stood up some public Wi-Fi hotspots at various locations that had fiber.”

As part of this grant, MGW is providing fiber to a total of 1,100 locations.  The other locations are all in Augusta County.

To hear about another grant in the works that could provide for fiber installation in Highland and Bath Counties, stay tuned to Allegheny Mountain Radio.

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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