It is a frustration faced by thousands of county residents and a topic that is sure to come up during any discussion about the challenges rural residents face: the lack of access to fast, reliable internet service.
Now, however, with the unveiling of an expansive new plan by the County to address broadband needs throughout Goochland, many residents may soon have the much-needed access they’ve been waiting for.
On Monday, Sept. 9, Goochland County Administrator John Budesky announced the county’s new 10 Steps to Broadband Internet Initiatives, a plan he described as “the foundation of a new engagement by the county to address broadband needs throughout the county.”
Aimed primarily at the areas of Goochland that are currently unserved by any internet providers, the plan will marshall county staff and resources to help solve a problem that impacts, as Budesky noted, just about every aspect of life in Goochland from education to business to public safety.
A new page on the county’s website will offer answers to residents’ frequently asked questions, provide progress reports for ongoing projects, and share contact information for internet providers that offer service in Goochland.
Expanded speed testing will also help accurately assess where help is most needed.
For many residents, the changes can’t come soon enough. Dozens responded to a Facebook query posted by the Gazette on Monday afternoon, detailing the headaches caused by a lack of access to high speed internet (see “Your Take” sidebar, right).
Over and over, residents shared the impact of poor internet service on owners of home-based businesses and on those who attempt to telecommute. Many described paying exorbitant costs for inadequate service, and of having to leave home and sit in parking lots to take a phone call or finish a work assignment.
Goochland resident Dawn Carter works from home for an Arizona-based tech company, and says she often finds herself seeking out WiFi in town after her data runs out.
“Today’s jobs are largely knowledge and service jobs that require technology,” Carter said. “Thus it’s pretty clear that to boost employment in underserved and underemployed areas has a very high [return on investment] in terms of dollars and other intangibles such as satisfaction with life and reduction in unemployment.”
While Budesky described the new plan as a major step forward, he also cautioned that the issue is not one that can be fixed overnight.
“We know that this is not a silver bullet, so to speak,” Budesky said, “but we also knew that we were going to need to step it up if we were going to reach this goal. This is the beginning of a foundational plan that will continue to grow, and we look forward to working with our partners and our residents.”
To address broadband internet availability in the short term, the county is establishing enhanced opportunities to access broadband internet at local access points through expanded hot spots on or within public facilities. The new hot spot locations, which will include all Goochland County Public Schools and all local fire stations, will be accessible starting in January 2020.
In the long term, the county is committing $50,000 for study and implementation plans that will define focus areas and time frames to accomplish expansion efforts.
In addition, the county in partnership with the Goochland County Economic Development Authority (EDA) will be committing a total of $400,000 for grants, matches, incentives, and low interest loan incentives for providers.