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Franklin County OKs plans to expand broadband service in rural areas

Franklin County OKs plans to expand broadband service in rural areas

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ROCKY MOUNT — Franklin County officials commenced the first phase of a multistage plan to spread high speed internet to remote areas by signing an agreement with providers Tuesday.

The $4.6 million project involves partnering with internet provider Blue Ridge Towers/Briscnet to build eight new communications towers and adding onto four sites throughout the county. The project is expected to bring fixed wireless to about 20,000 residents, with construction to start in August and wrap up in late 2021.

A $2.38 million grant awarded to the county in January through the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative helped to fund the project, along with investments by the companies involved.

Another wireless provider, Shentel, will be extending fiber optic cable along Old Salem School Road in Union Hall, which will bring broadband to about 200 homes and businesses.

Representatives from both companies signed an agreement with the county at Tuesday’s Franklin County Broadband Authority meeting.

“The county is pleased with today’s partnerships,” County Administrator Chris Whitlow said.

In 2019, the county received a $650,000 grant from the Virginia Tobacco Revitalization Commission for a fiberoptic project that will serve 650 homes in the Blackwater and Boone districts. That project is scheduled to be finished in September.

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Mike Allen covers government happenings in Franklin County and Botetourt County for The Roanoke Times and also writes the weekly Arts & Extras column.

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