Surry focuses on its future

Published 4:33 pm Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Community leaders in a rural county like Surry could spend their time whining about their declining population and economic plight in an era with fewer and fewer manufacturing and agricultural jobs. Or they can choose to focus on what they can control.

Give them credit for doing just that with an all-out commitment to providing the best of broadband internet service to every home and business in the county.

Don’t look now, but Surry is in a race with rural Bath County in western Virginia to be the first in the commonwealth to offer a fiber-to-the-home internet connection to every single citizen. As reporter Stephen Faleski details elsewhere in this week’s edition, fiber optic is the “gold standard” of broadband service.

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A partnership among Surry County government, the Prince George Electric Cooperative and Dominion Energy already has extended fiber optic infrastructure to two-thirds of the county, with the remaining third expected to be online by the end of October.

As a bonus, Dominion has been updating its energy grid in the county, facilitating the internet project’s fast progress.

Over 700 of the roughly 2,400 households that now have access to broadband in Surry County have opted to take advantage of the service and request a fiber-to-the-home connection, Faleski reports, with another 136 connections pending.

Generally, it takes about four weeks from the date a fiber-to-the-home request is made to the date that a house is added to the network.

Fiber optic is a game-changer for schoolchildren, tomorrow’s workforce in Surry County. Remote learning opportunities were already abundant before COVID-19, but the pandemic has accelerated the supplemental educational opportunities available to kids.

Fiber-to-the-home also gives the county an immediate advantage in economic development, as companies these days are insistent on first-rate internet connectivity when they are looking for places to build and invest.

State officials wisely plan to invest a big chunk of COVID-19 federal relief funds in broadband expansion, with a goal of universal access in Virginia by 2024. The Surry County broadband partnership is showing the way for the rest of Virginia. That’s something to be proud of.