High-Speed Internet a ‘Game Changer’ for Hillsboro

The rolling and rocky hills that make Hillsboro beautiful have also made internet connectivity a difficult technology to harness since the first homeowner went online in the early ’90s.

Since then, town residents have connected to the web primarily through wireless internet services, such as All Points Broadband, and satellite internet, like HughesNet. Those methods haven’t proved to be very effective for the residents who live farther away from the center of town, since the signal has to travel up and down the mountains and through thick woods.

“We’ve had a few solutions over the years, but basically they’re bouncing from antenna to antenna,” Mayor Roger Vance said. “It works well for some, but it does not work well for many.”

A lot of these problems are now being fixed, however, thanks to the Waterford Telephone Co. and its recent move into town.

Early last month, the seven-year-old internet provider based in Hamilton used the town’s existing Verizon copper wires to hook up to the Old Stone School and provide the town offices with faster internet speeds, which Vance said makes the building much more viable for business meetings and other events. He said 75 vendors were able to use the new internet service during the town’s Christmas Market.

“We’re getting speeds that are probably 50 times what we were able to get before,” he said. “So far, we’re getting excellent service.”

Bruce Davis, owner of the company, said Hillsboro is the first town to use VDSL technology with his service—infrastructure that provides much faster connection speeds than other setups. He said this has given him the ability to provide people with up to 50 megabits per second in download speeds and 5 megabits per second in upload speeds, which both meet the federal government’s standard for broadband.

While this capability can provide customers with faster internet speeds, proximity plays a major role. “That technology is very, very dependent on distance,” Davis said.

Residents living farther away should still see higher speeds than they would have been getting with their previous internet service, though. Some might even be OK with that, since the company’s monthly fees are aligned with internet speeds.

Davis charges anywhere from $70 to $140 each month, with installation fees ranging from $100 to $150. He also doesn’t make customers sign a contract. If someone is unhappy with the service, they can simply call in and opt out.

One of his customers is David Price, a town resident since 1990 and a frequent telecommuter. Price’s job as a technology lead at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requires him to have reliable internet access, as does his wife’s job as a software tester. Since switching to the new service, Price said his internet speed is now 70 times faster, operating at 45 megabits per second for downloads and 17 megabits per second for uploads.

“We can independently stream 4k TV if we wanted,” he said. “It’s just unreal.”

Davis said he has about 20 people in town signed up for installation.

Vance said the new internet service is positively impacting not only residents, but also businesses like wineries and Airbnbs that were previously using outdated and much slower T1 lines.

“We see this as a potential game changer for those folks,” he said. “We’re hopeful that this will be a real good solution.”

pszabo@loudounnow.com

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