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Next phase of broadband expansion in Franklin County

Next phase of broadband expansion in Franklin County

Franklin County will use a $1.1 million grant awarded earlier this month to start the next steps in its high-speed internet service plan as phase one nears a close.

The Virginia Telecommunications Initiative grant will help build additional fixed-wireless towers through Blue Ridge Towers and Briscnet, expanding access to 1,996 serviceable units in Cahas Mountain, Ferrum, Union Hall and Windy Gap areas. Phase two is expected to begin this summer, according to Steve Sandy, Franklin County director of planning and community development,

The two companies are working with the county to build seven new telecommunications towers and expand the capabilities on several existing towers as part of the county’s first phase of its broadband plan. The final project of phase one is a tower set for completion this September, depending on negotiations with Booker T. Washington National Monument.

Scruggs will be the first community in the county to have access to fixed wireless internet through Briscnet. Homes within 2 to 3 miles of the signal are expected to begin getting internet service as early as this week.

Shentel also is working with the county and has expanded several miles of lines in communities around Smith Mountain Lake. The county applied for an additional $1.5 million to expand coverage through Shentel but was not successful, Sandy said. However, additional funding could be coming in through the recently passed $1.9 trillion federal stimulus bill, known as the American Rescue Plan, Sandy said.

If the American Rescue Plan funding comes through, it would help areas that were left out of the recent VATI grant, Sandy said. It could also provide funding for fiber in some areas included in the second $1.5 million VATI grant that was not awarded.

Two areas that could see benefit would be the Sago and Endicott areas of Franklin County. The communities were removed from phase two plans after the Federal Communications Commission awarded a grant to Wilkes Telephone in North Carolina to expand broadband there. Sandy said additional funding could bring broadband faster than the eight to 10 years Wilkes Telephone currently has to provide the service.

Sandy said once phase three is underway, the county will look into including smaller, community poles to expand the signal from the original towers to other harder to reach homes in the county in addition to the expansion of fiber lines throughout the county.

Residents can determine if their home or business might receive service from this new fixed wireless network by contacting Briscnet by at 566-4609 or 566-4612 or franklincountybroadband@briscnet.com.

More information on the county’s broadband plan is available at www.franklincountyva.gov/546/Broadband-Authority.

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