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Botetourt County receives $570,000 broadband access grant

Botetourt County receives $570,000 broadband access grant

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More broadband access is coming to Botetourt County, courtesy of a six-figure grant from the commonwealth.

The county on Thursday announced that it received $569,808 from Gov. Ralph Northam’s Fast Track Broadband program, to improve accessibility in underserved areas.

County officials have secured about $3.3 million in the past three years, to improve and expand broadband access there, according to a news release.

The funding helps Botetourt County move closer to its goal of connecting all of its residents to the digital world, according to Mac Scothorn, vice chairman of the board of supervisors and chairman of the Botetourt Broadband Advisory Council.

“These funds not only help to bring much needed high-speed internet service to citizens, but, in this critical moment, are also expanding opportunities for distance learning, telehealth, and remote work as we all continue to deal with the impacts and new realities associated with the Covid-19 pandemic,” Scothorn said in the news release.

About 80% of Botetourt County’s 14,000 households have broadband access, up from 70% in 2017, according to Cody Sexton, assistant to the county administrator.

The new grant will fund a Citizens Broadband Radio Service development in the Fincastle area. County officials will share a service area map in about early spring, the release says.

CBRS is a band of radio frequency spectrum that in years past was exclusive for satellite ground stations and the U.S. Navy, according to Networkworld.com. The Federal Communications Commission in 2015 adopted rules for shared uses and began auctioning licenses last summer.

The county news release describes it as “fixed wireless broadband deployment technology that can be placed into service quickly and deliver reliable high-speed service to citizens.”

When implemented, the Fincastle-area CBRS will serve 250 residential and business customers. The Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority is already adding two CBRS nodes in the Greenfield area.

“There aren’t many rural communities like ours that have been able to leverage this newer technology yet,” County Administrator Gary Larrowe said in the news release. “So it’s exciting.”

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