Reneging on a promise is never a good thing. Two years ago, the Louisa Board of Supervisors voted to fund a study for broadband for this county. Private sector carriers were unwilling to make the infrastructure investment to bring in broadband to Louisa. The board made a commitment to voters that they would address this very important issue because so many voters had reached out to them about this.
I can’t emphasize how popular this project is. The supervisors took it on because there was so much demand from their constituents. People signed petitions and made phone calls. Crowds showed up at board meetings to speak in favor of it. It is probably the single most popular project that the Louisa BOS has ever considered. As one person commented at a recent meeting. “This is the one chance we have to tell the board what we want our tax money spent on.”
People in the county don’t want broadband just to watch movies and play video games. Many, many people run small businesses or work from their homes. You can’t run a business without the internet. Parents sit in the parking lot of the library or McDonalds so their kids can do homework. People with digital health devices need to upload data. Older people have virtual doctor visits so their kids don’t have to take off a workday to drive them to the doctor. New businesses refuse to locate in the county because there is no broadband (increased unemployment). Real estate agents can’t sell properties in the county because people will not move here with bad internet options (reduced tax base).
So a broadband commission of local experts in the fields of telecommunications and business was formed to study the issue. Coverage was no small feat considering that the county is geographically huge with 511 square miles and the population is mostly spread evenly around the county.
A plan was developed by the commission and the consulting firm they hired (which had successfully developed this kind of plan for other rural areas). The plan consisted of building 180 foot towers around the county so that private Internet Service Providers (ISPs) could mount wireless transmitters and receivers and offer connection plans to citizens. Covering the initial infrastructure cost would encourage private carriers to build on the towers.
The last step was to fund the construction of the towers ($1.2 million) which finally happened at the December 2017 Supervisor’s meeting. In January, new Supervisor Duane Adams moved to defund the towers, breaking existing construction contracts (at a great cost to the county). The board was voting to break its promise to the citizens to bring broadband one month after it passed the funding. Thankfully, the motion failed.
We should thank the board members who have consistently supported broadband - Fitzgerald Barnes (Patrick Henry), Willie Gentry (Cuckoo), Tommy Barlow (Mountain Road) and also new supervisor Bob Babyok (Green Springs).
The three supervisors who voted AGAINST finishing these projects were Troy Wade (Louisa District) , Duane Adams (Mineral District covering Lake Anna and Yanceyville), and Toni Williams (Jackson District covering Bumpass and Locust Creek). Don’t forget their names because they will be up for reelection in the future.
The people of Louisa County have spoken on this issue – loud and clear. They want the county to help deliver this valuable and NECESSARY service to county residents. Listen to them!
Editor’s note: this piece originally appeared as a letter to the editor in the January 25th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.