Broadband expected to be operational in Page County by Feb. 28 deadline
Page News and CourierWith the installation of microwave equipment to a water tank tower owned by the Town of Shenandoah, the final installation of towers, microwave antennae and equipment and fiber optic cables that will bring broadband access to Page County should be completed by the end of this month.
Martha Shickle of the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission recently told the Page County Board of Supervisors that the 39-mile “middle mile” network should be operational by Feb. 28, 2013, the date targeted in the federal grant awarded in 2009 to finance the project.
The $1,698,941 grant was funded through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration. It was supplemented by an additional $412,235 in private funding provided by Shenandoah Long Distance Telecommunications Company (Shentel).
“At this point, we are on budget and on schedule,” Shickle told the supervisors at their work session on Dec. 4.
Broadband is a technical term for high-speed transmission of multiple levels of data that can be transmitted over a single cable such as a fiber-optic cable. The Page County project originally proposed a 39-mile line of fiber-optic cable that would enter Page County from a Shentel station in Elkton, and would extend from Shenandoah to Rileyville, with Point-to-Point (POP) “hubs” located in Shenandoah, Stanley, Luray, Rileyville (near Springfiled Elementary School) and at Cub Run (between Shenandoah and Stanley).
Under the oversight of the Page County Broadband Authority, the project had to be modified after the Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative became the main provider of electric service for Page County, according to PCBA chairman Bernie Miller.
Originally the plan was to use Allegheny’s poles to run the fiber-optic lines and install equipment at a cost of around $300,000, but recalculations by SVEC put the cost closer to $2 million.
“So we changed that to partial fiber-optics within the three towns, with microwave towers providing the transmission from point-to-point along the way,” Miller explained.
Currently, only about 6.7 miles of fiber-optic cable has been buried within the towns of Luray, Shenandoah and Stanley. The remaining network is provided by long-range microwave transmissions between the five POP locations.
Although that alternative allows only about 1GB of data capacity compared to up to 8GB with fiber optics, Miller said the PCBA had to either take that alternative or abandon the project altogether because of the projected cost.
Miller emphasized that the Page County Broadband network is a “middle mile” system, meaning that it does not provide broadband access directly to users.
Instead, internet service providers (such as Century Link, Comcast, Verizon and others) will enter lease agreements with PCBA to gain access to the system through the five POP hubs along the route, and then provide the service to their customers.
Proceeds from leasing the network to internet service providers will in turn be used to operate and reinvest in the network, thus making it possible in the future to expand its capabilities over time, Miller said.
Once the network is up and running in February, it will serve 24 “anchor institutions,” including all of Page County’s schools, the Page County Sheriff’s Office, the County of Page, Page Memorial Hospital, and others by providing full-streaming video, videoconferencing and other services.
“We are so pleased to be a part of such an exciting project for the county,” Miller said. “This middle mile network is analogous to a community’s main water line. From it the laterals get connected to provide water to the end user. Without the middle mile network, we wouldn’t have broadband internet access available in our county, nor would we be connected to the outside world.”