Broadband to be available for all within six years
After struggling with broadband access for years, a deluge of governmental funding means the wait for high-speed internet in Prince Edward and parts of Cumberland and Lunenburg counties will likely be coming to an end in the next four years.
Kinex Telecom is currently working on a project that is bringing broadband fiber from Cumberland Courthouse to Farmville. The company just passed the intersection of Highways 45 and 60.
Other projects the company will soon be working on will mean around 500 miles of new fiber in Prince Edward County, 300 miles of new fiber in Cumberland and 400 new miles of fiber in Lunenburg County. The project will place access to fiber in areas where households do not have download speeds faster than 25 megabits per second.
Kinex President James Garrett said the company will be working on the project in all three counties simultaneously. He said the company has six years to complete the project but expects the bulk of the new fiber to be in place within the next four years.
“With the money coming down from the state and to the local governments, it really gives us an opportunity to make this a reality,” Garrett said. “I’m really glad to see the money come down to the localities because some have wanted to dedicate money in the past. I’m glad to see that somebody is realizing the priority of broadband. It’s just a necessity in today’s life.”
Prince Edward County Administrator Doug Stanley briefed the Prince Edward County School Board on the broadband project during his quarterly update Wednesday, June 9.
“Broadband is one of the things that is holding this community back,” Stanley told the school board, while describing the Kinex project and how the county is helping fund the project. “It’s exciting. It could be a game changer of the community and the school system. We need to get this issue addressed and move forward.”
The Kinex project will place 90% of the fiber underground and will use equipment with a capacity for 10 gigabit per second upload and download speeds. The speeds are based on what plan the customer purchases, but Garrett said most customers are getting 50 to 75 or 100 Mbps download speeds.
“We’re kind of future-proofing the electronics for this project,” Garrett explained, while saying most households now have 20 or more devices using internet bandwidth, and that is only expected to grow in the coming years. “It just makes no sense not to spend a few extra bucks to future-proof it.”
Garrett said currently between 60% and 65% of Cumberland County customers who receive access to the broadband service are taking it.
“With what we’ve experienced in the past, it may be a year after their neighbor signs up before they actually sign up,” he said.
Garrett said Kinex began putting customers on the new network in Cumberland when COVID hit last year. That slowed in-person installations for a time.
“There were quite a few people that just didn’t want to deal with anyone coming into their house and making all that happen,” he said.
Garrett said the government subsidies help make the project viable.
“With the help of the county and state and, of course, the federal money, it all works,” he said. “We’re excited about it. I’ve been in this business for more than 20 years, and we have been throwing everything we have into it. It’s been a slow process because it’s a tough business model.”