Increasing Wi-Fi access in rural Southern Virginia communities
As a result of consultation with Boydton town leaders and residents, reliable broadband access was recognized as a community priority. “Internet access is very important to this community as it helps our residents fully participate in the 21st-century economy,” said Mecklenburg County Administrator Wayne Carter.
Providing community Wi-Fi access in Boydton
In 2018, Microsoft contributed $75,000 to build a high-speed community Wi-Fi system for Boydton, Virginia, one of its datacenter communities. For Boydton, there had been very limited broadband options. The Microsoft team worked with Lake Country Satellite, a local internet service provider, to design and deploy the system that provides service to the town’s residents, businesses, and visitors.
The project serves the community but also provided insight into the feasibility of replicating the free community Wi-Fi approach in other communities in the region. According to Lake Country Satellite President David Varner, “The work we’ve done with Microsoft allowed us to build infrastructure that will benefit everyone that lives, conducts business, or visits Boydton.”
Bringing fiber internet to connect southern Virginia
The Microsoft team consulted with local energy provider Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC) to help advance the plan to build a fiber network throughout their service area via their subsidiary, EmPower Broadband Cooperative (EBC). MEC is the not-for-profit energy provider to more than 31,000 meters located in portions of nine southside Virginia counties and five North Carolina counties. A key step in this project was supporting MEC in their grant application to the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission (TRRC) that will help fund the program. The TRRC $2.6 million grant was approved in March 2018.
As part of Microsoft’s broader commitment to foster development in the region, the team also facilitated a “best practices” consultation between MEC and Grant County Public Utility District (GCPUD) in central Washington. GCPUD has been deploying fiber throughout their service area in and around Grant County for nearly a decade. Working with GCPUD provided an important opportunity for MEC to learn about ways to efficiently build their fiber network.
Expanding community Wi-Fi
In early 2019, the Clarksville Lake Country Chamber of Commerce, Lake Country Internet, and Microsoft announced a similar Wi-Fi project for Clarksville, Virginia. Microsoft will contribute $125,000 towards the design, deployment, and operation of a free community Wi-Fi system. Lake Country Satellite’s Varner looks forward to expanding high-speed internet access in Clarksville, saying, “We are proud to partner with the Town of Clarksville and Microsoft to build and operate this free community Wi-Fi project for the town.”
“Internet access is very important to this community as it helps our residents fully participate in the 21st-century economy.”—Wayne Carter, Mecklenburg County Administrator