Grayson County/APCO fiber-optic pilot project shows promise to unserved communities

New River Valley News

GRAYSON COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — For several years, Grayson County had been developing a plan to bring high-speed internet to its underserved communities.

The county’s IT Director, Carl Caudill, over half the population is in unserved areas, which according to Virginia law, means, “any area within the Commonwealth that is demonstrated not to have access to terrestrial broadband or radio frequency internet service.”

“There’s really no connection into the county,” Caudill said. “We’d have had to build up the whole infrastructure from scratch with limited resources.”

About a year ago, however, Appalachian Power “came out of the blue,” according to Caudill.

“They came to us and said ‘Hey! We’ve got a pilot project we’d like to do in Grayson County,'” said Caudill.

The project lays middle-mile fiber-optic cables along power lines, meaning APCO will work to get cables out to underserved areas and leave completion up to the county.

Grayson County’s chosen partner to bring the internet to individual homes is GigaBeam out of Bluefield, and when completed the difference in service will be unrecognizable.

Caudill described, “There’s different ranges, and we don’t expect everyone to go with the highest speed. We’ll be offering speeds between twenty-five megabytes per second and one gig.”

Caudill says APCO coming in cut their original timeline in half.

“Grayson County is challenging, anyway, with the mountains and streams and rivers, so they (APCO) chose Grayson County partly because we were in that spot but also… if they can do Grayson County, they can do this project anywhere in Virginia.”

“We kind of gave up hope,” said Rachel Parks, a Grayson County resident .

Parks lives in the Elk Creek community, one of Grayson County’s underserved areas.

She says you can’t tell the difference between peak and off-peak service, and the most she ever sees on a regular basis is 10 MB/s.

“I’ve tried to work from home,” Parks said. “My friends work from home. They run on satellite, and it’s been very challenging.”

Parks has lived in this community going on 18 years now and for just about that entire time has tried to get high-speed internet out for her and her neighbors.

You can imagine her excitement when she found out about the project with APCO.

“It’s almost like… I talked to my neighbor last night on the phone. They’re screaming for joy,” said Parks. “They are just feeling so blessed that it’s finally coming.”

With cable finally being laid, Caudill anticipates county-wide connection in two to three years, and Parks says it’s worth the wait.

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