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Broadband internet projects approved for three lake communities

Broadband internet projects approved for three lake communities

Broadband internet is coming to three more lake communities thanks to funding from the CARES Act. The Franklin County Board of Supervisors agreed to move forward during a broadband authority meeting Sept. 15.

The $250,000 project is a joint venture between Franklin County and Shentel. It will provide high-speed internet to more than 100 homes along The Retreat community and Cedar Bay Road in Union Hall and Park Way Avenue in Moneta.

The locations will be included in a group of ongoing projects to expand broadband internet in the county, especially around Smith Mountain Lake. The projects include a mixture of fiber internet lines and fixed wireless internet towers.

Work has already started on projects along Virginia 122 in Burnt Chimney and Walnut Run in Hardy from a grant from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission awarded last year. Another project is now underway along Old Salem School Road in Union Hall funded from the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative grant awarded to the county earlier this year. The VATI grant is also funding fixed wireless towers throughout the county, including towers in Burnt Chimney, Scruggs, Westlake and Glade Hill.

The three communities approved Sept. 15 for broadband internet lines were last minute additions to the list. They will be funded through the federal government’s CARES Act provided to assist localities during the pandemic.

Franklin County received $4.8 million from the CARES Act with the stipulation that it be used on necessary expenditures during the pandemic. Much of the grant has been used to aid local businesses in the form of small business grants and to provide PPE protection to county employees.

Another stipulation is that the funding ends on Dec. 30, giving the county limited time to use them.

Steve Sandy, Franklin County director of planning and community development, said a major reason the communities were chosen was due to the ability to have the projects completed by the Dec. 30 deadline. He said residents of the three communities have been requesting high-speed internet from the county for some time.

Because those communities have school-aged children needing high-speed internet, Sandy said funding the projects would be a necessary expenditure of the CARES Act funding.

The projects are expected to begin in the coming weeks.

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