Bringing broadband to Surry

Published 1:38 pm Wednesday, May 25, 2016

By Matt Leonard

Staff Writer

SURRY — With a tower constructed for the purpose of carrying wireless Internet to county residents, the Surry County Board of Supervisors approved leasing rates for providers.

The newly constructed wireless tower is designed to handle more than one provider. The Surry Board of Supervisors has been soliciting potential providers with advertisements and direct contact.

Rhonda Russell, the Surry County directory of planning and community development, said there are “at least three” providers the county will be reaching out to directly, but said she couldn’t say who they were. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

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The rates approved by the Board after a public hearing last week vary depending on the spot on the tower. The top 30 feet of the 350-foot tower will be leased in 10 foot sections; on this part of the tower the lessee will pay $275 a month per antenna for the first three antennas and $150 for every additional antenna.

The next 30-foot section will be leased at $175 a month for the first three antennas and $90 for every additional.

An additional $200 a month fee gives providers access to electric hookups and an on-site storage shelter.

If those fees sound low, that’s because they are, Russell said. County officials believe the combination of its readily available infrastructure and low monthly leasing rates will make the new tower a good option for potential providers.

The Board will also be sending out a request for proposals for a tower management entity. This company would be responsible for maintenance of the tower, which would include replacing the light at the top.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, any structure that is at least 200 feet tall should be marked or lit.

The management company will also be responsible for placing equipment on the tower.

Russell said the county does not currently staff people who are qualified to maintain the needs of such a structure.

Surry County helped to pay for the construction of the tower with a grant from the state, which has officially been closed out, Russell said. Closing out a grant simply means the money has been put toward its intended purpose. The state required this by the end of the fiscal year, July 1.

Technical Towers was hired at the end of last year to build the structure and it was completed before the New Year.

The county already has Internet at some locations, such as government buildings and health care facilities, via a fiber optic cable network, but this is a limited network that doesn’t extend far beyond the town of Surry and the business park.

According to the 2009 implementation plan, this was done because “The proposed fiber route reaches the greatest numbers of key stakeholders and high bandwidth users that are attractive to service providers.”

The report also says wireless Internet will be the cheapest way to provide access to more businesses and residents of Surry County.

This is just part of the county’s attempt to expand their existing infrastructure. Surry County Administrator Tyrone Franklin has brought in the Hampton Roads Sanitation District to talk about possibly taking over the sewer operations in the county because their current system is at capacity. Franklin presents the plan as an opportunity for growth.

The 2009 report on Internet access, prepared by Icon Broadband Technologies and Consulting Gateway Corporation, found similar desires for Internet’s potential effects on the county.

“The county has stated its desire to encourage and enable broadband service expansion to Surry County businesses and residents,” the report stated. “Economic development and in particular, business expansion and recruitment depends upon high speed communication infrastructure.”  {/mprestriction}