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Rural Virginia's first 5G internet comes to rural Spotsylvania
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Rural Virginia's first 5G internet comes to rural Spotsylvania

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Spotsylvania’s Wilderness area may be far from the madding crowd, but it can now boast the same internet amenities as any urban locale.

For what county officials say is a first for rural Virginia, 5G telecom service is newly available to residents of this enclave on the Wilderness battlefield near Spotsylvania’s border with Orange County.

On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger helped county officials unveil Data Stream Broadband’s 5G network at Spotsylvania Fire and Rescue Company 7’s station near Lake Wilderness.

Spanberger, a Democrat who represents Central Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, hailed the project as “a great example” of what government and industry partnerships can achieve. Driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal CARES Act provided funding for the venture.

“You’ve got Board of Supervisors members who won this funding that is meant for this purpose,” she said in an interview. “They’ve been working on this project for years, recognizing the need.

“For them to be able to say, ‘We’re going to make it happen,’ it’s amazing,” added Spanberger, who is regarded as a leader in Congress on broadband issues. “It’s exactly what these federal investments are supposed to assist in making a reality. My hat’s off to supervisors who recognized the opportunity and jumped on it.

“Now, school kids and business people and community members are going to have the same access—because of this tower and this connectivity—that people in other parts of the region already have.”

The congresswoman, Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors Chairman Kevin Marshall and Data Stream Broadband President and CEO Sean Lee said the new endeavor would help improve the quality of life in the county’s Wilderness and Belmont communities.

Marshall, who represents the county’s rural Berkeley District, said high-speed internet access should be made available to everyone.

“I feel broadband needs to be treated as a utility because there’s so much need for it, especially with this pandemic hitting us,” he said. “It showed us that our kids living in rural districts like mine … they had a hard time being able to do their schoolwork. They couldn’t get on the internet. We did accommodations as best we could with hotspots, giving the technology to kids, and still ran into issues with that.”

Marshall said he was heartened by Data Stream’s arrival in Spotsylvania and its 5G service.

“By no means is it going to fix all of our problems, but we’re going to be a lot farther down the road and be able to provide a lot more service to a lot more citizens in the county,” he said. “That’s huge for us.”

Data Stream Chief Operating Officer Charles Thomas thanked Marshall, Livingston District Supervisor Barry Jett and Spotsylvania Chief Information Officer Jane Reeve for showing the vision and leadership to deliver 5G-compatible broadband to rural Spotsylvania.

Thomas noted that the Federal Communications Commission says the economic payoff from investing in improved broadband access is greater than from any other kind of infrastructure.

“We are committed to … bringing the urban broadband experience to rural communities,” he said of his small but growing company.

Initially, Data Stream’s Lake Wilderness network will serve about 400 households, but the company plans to deploy broadband sites to cover all of Spotsylvania’s Berkeley and Livingston districts, Thomas said.

In this region, Data Stream now offers high-speed coverage in Culpeper, Fauquier, Spotsylvania and Prince William counties. The company said it is rapidly expanding its services throughout Northern Virginia.

Data Stream’s rural 5G network will create jobs, spur innovation and invigorate communities, Lee said.

“We understand the very real need for high-speed broadband in these rural communities,” Extreme LTE President David Tews said in a statement. “And we’re excited to support Data Stream Broadband and Spotsylvania County with Ericsson’s full turnkey broadband solutions.”

Lee said the company’s recent deal with Ericsson, the Swedish telecom giant, provides it with state-of-the-art wireless that ensures customers will benefit from the latest 5G technology.

Through a strategic partnership with Xtreme LTE, Ericsson provides Data Stream with Massive Mimo radios. They increase cell capacity by connecting more devices simultaneously to a cell network, delivering higher data rates without compromising performance.

Recently installed Ericsson antennas top the Lake Wilderness cell tower. They pluck cellular signals from the air and feed them to Data Stream’s fixed-wireless and fiber-optic network.

Standing at the base of that nearly 300-foot-tall tower, Marshall; Spanberger, D-7th; state Del. Mark Cole Cole, R-Spotsylavania; and Data Stream officials marked the occasion with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Cole is also Spotsylvania’s deputy county administrator.

“We understand the very real need for high-speed broadband in these rural communities,” Extreme LTE President David Tews said in a statement. “And we’re excited to support Data Stream Broadband and Spotsylvania County with Ericsson’s full turnkey broadband solutions.”

Thursday’s grand opening of Data Stream’s 5G network was hosted by the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Data Stream Broadband Inc., a division of Data Stream Mobile Technologies, delivers high-speed internet and voice services to residential, business and educational markets. Its advanced fixed-wireless LTE and fiber-optic technology targets underserved regions of rural Virginia.

The parent company is headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

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