County Commission Sees Tools in Place to Impact Broadband Gap

County Communications Commission Chairman Tim Dennis says Loudoun is finally ready to make a dent in its broadband gap.

Presenting his commission’s annual report to county supervisors July 18, Dennis noted that one of the commission’s major jobs has been the Broadband Strategic Plan, which it created and supervisors adopted in 2018.

“When we began working on this, what became very clear is that there are not a lot of tools or levers in the toolbox for local government to actually create and address the broadband issue,” Dennis said.

But supervisors have taken steps to increase the reach high-speed internet access from the heart of Data Center Ally in Ashburn to the county’s poorly-served western reaches. At the same meeting, they launched study on a project to run fiber optic cable to government-owned facilities in the west, a western Loudoun loop of cable that would be privately owned and managed and possibly cut the distance internet providers would have to go to connect other places.

As they wrote the new comprehensive plan, supervisors also sought to relax some of the restrictions on building new communications towers, which many western Loudouners rely on for wireless internet service.

Dennis said with those efforts, “we’re at a unique time and place to reset the broadband issue in Loudoun County.”

“This county now has levers that they can pull to materially impact closing the broadband gap,” Dennis said.

Dennis said the cost of burying fiber optic cable is the major obstacle.

He also highlighted trends signaling the end of an era in television. As cable and satellite television revenues continue to shrink, he said DirecTV, now owned by AT&T, has launched its last satellite. The service will end when its existing satellites fail or are turned off. The companies are instead focusing on sending their shows over wired and wireless services—further reducing the options for rural areas that have limited access to those services. The decline could also impact 911 funding, which is funded in part through cable franchise fees.

There have been no new communications towers built in Loudoun in the past five years, he said. Two have been zoned but not yet built.

Those shortfalls, he said, threaten not only a family’s ability to binge Netflix, but also the rural economy, the ability for some students to do their homework, and even can impact traffic as teleworking is not an option for some people and they are forced to get on the road to go to the office.

“I think the pendulum is finally swinging in the right direction here on broadband in western Loudoun County and our rural parts,” said Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge).

rgreene@loudounnow.com

5 thoughts on “County Commission Sees Tools in Place to Impact Broadband Gap

  • 2019-07-30 at 4:38 pm
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    More talk. Still no action. For years, the county and communication commission has been talking, doing surveys, presentations, and “broadband plans”. Still no broadband for residents….. Another “feel good” plan by the BOS.

    How about a plan that has a timeline for providing broadband to homes? Burying fiber to county facilities does not help a resident without broadband. Kids still need to be driven to McDonalds to use the internet for homework. The school-provided Chromebook is a doorstop at home.

    The county seems to be able to build data centers, but not a broadband system.

  • 2019-07-30 at 5:30 pm
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    I’ll believe it when I ever see it as I have heard ALL the promises before about service in the west.

    Face it, the County could careless about the west and broadband. It is literally the “Wild West” of
    internet out here. You are totally on your own.

  • 2019-07-31 at 6:49 am
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    Not disputing Mr Dennis but it seems to be a conflict of interest for GUY WHO IS IN THE TOWER BUILDING AND LEASING BUSINESS.

  • 2019-07-31 at 8:29 am
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    “The County now has levers” is an interesting statement which later in the article implies a lower thresh hold for more towers in Western Loudoun or perhaps a sweetheart deal for a friend of the current Supervisors to dig trenches between all gov’t related sites. Stop using the catch phrase “broadband” which most think is underground cable and use the appropriate phrase of high speed internet capable of carrying both TV and high speed data (internet). Let’s start with defining the problem clearly and taking real steps toward resolving it using fairness, efficiency and community support to be included in the analysis. The majority of the western Loudoun community does not want the land peppered with communication towers as all elected officials should have seen from the resistance to above ground power lines along the W&OD. Most homes and businesses would benefit from the efficiency of low cost, high speed internet to allow minimal buffering of TV and minimal latency for using internet services allowing multiple simultaneous computers and TV’s to be working on the same download capacity. What is so hard for the Supervisors to put a meeting together of all the utilities already operating in the county with an agenda of cooperation to facilitate the delivery of at least 30 MBPS of wireless service to every home and business within a line of sight of power lines, telephone poles, water towers? It is not fair for eastern Loudoun to finance gov’t operations to provide services which are competitively provided but gov’t can negotiate on behalf of residents and business owners to move the needle faster and more fairly without destroying what western Loudoun clearly values.

    • 2019-07-31 at 12:24 pm
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      “What is so hard for the Supervisors to put a meeting together of all the utilities already operating in the county with an agenda of cooperation to facilitate the delivery of at least 30 MBPS of wireless service to every home and business within a line of sight of power lines, telephone poles, water towers?”

      Cost and limits of technology. Also 30MBPS would be 30 megabytes per second which is 240 megabits per second. Lets first try to get to the FCC’s definition of broadband which is 25Mbps before trying for almost 10 times that.

      You should concentrate on those things you are good at versus the topics you clearly don’t understand. Perhaps some more pointless ranting about the airport authority not paying property taxes on the land they use for parking.

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