Goochland County

Sunflowers grew in a field on Alvis Farms in Manakin-Sabot in July. Goochland County officials have renewed their commitment to expanding broadband internet access in unserved, rural areas.

Goochland County residents and officials know the hurdles to achieve reliable, broadband internet. With a renewed financial commitment and set of strategies, local leaders are one step closer to supporting a connected future.

On Sept. 9, Goochland County introduced a promising roadmap forward. The “10 Steps to Broadband Internet Initiatives” plan is a series of short- and long-term strategies to engage the public and establish coverage in unserved and underserved areas.

“It is clear to Goochland County that our lives and our residents’ lives are changing,” said County Administrator John Budesky at the time of the announcement. “The demand for broadband internet is expanding almost daily and the demands on existing services are far extended beyond what our residents need and desire in our community.”

People who want to work from home have to go elsewhere. Students seeking online resources for assignments have to adjust their schedules around library hours. Families miss basic everyday communications, from FaceTime with relatives to emergency updates.

Some homes rely on cellular broadband from major carriers as their primary source of internet connectivity. But hotspot plans can be spotty and/or cost-prohibitive. Through $500,000 in new initiatives and a previous $1.66 million network infrastructure investment, Goochland County’s focus is fiber or fixed wireless with speeds of 25 Mbps for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads.

Best of all, the public has a seat at the table. Members of the community can fill out a form online or report broadband and cellular issues and needs by phone. Other resources include contact information for providers who serve, or plan to serve, the area.

Goochland County Administrative Services Manager Paul Drumwright said the “10 Steps to Broadband Internet Initiatives” will give residents greater visibility of what the county is doing, as well as create opportunities for feedback that help adjust the roadmap and draw more providers. “Here’s where we are,” said Drumwright, a member of the RTD Opinions Community Advisory Board. “Here’s the next step. Here’s what we’re launching.”

A short-term improvement is just months away. In January, the county will unveil hotspots at fire stations, libraries, schools and the Goochland campus of Reynolds Community College. Officials are also reaching out to local businesses, asking if they’ll open their doors and create more convenient public access points than a coffee shop in Richmond. “We’re trying to meet the need of folks in the community who’ve been here, as well as folks moving here who have this need,” Drumwright said.

That sounds like a recipe for growth. We’re on board.

Chris Gentilviso

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