Culpeper homes could start having high-speed internet access by the end of the year | Recent news
Fiber to the home could begin reaching Culpeper County residences by the end of the year or early 2023. However, there remain unknown factors that could impact exactly when citizens premises will join the 21st century with high-speed Internet.
Tom Innes with Leesburg-based All Points Broadband joined the Supervisory Board virtually for its meeting Tuesday morning for an update on the planned fiber expansion to more than 4,000 homes in Culpeper County as part of of a $32 million collaborative project.
The board voted unanimously to sign a model contract with the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development to officially launch the project. The agency is the administrator of the statewide grant program that awarded Culpeper County $8.6 million in December for the work.
The rest of the project will be paid for with pandemic-era federal funds, All Points and Dominion Power. Rappahannock Electric Cooperative will also be a partner to enable the use of its utility poles for the project.
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The 536-mile fiber project has been a long time coming, kicking off 20 months ago and caught up in government review and contract negotiations ever since.
“An area of shared frustration, the award of the grant was announced in December at the end of one (governor’s) administration, so we are still waiting to be contracted to the new administration,” Innes said.
That process is nearly complete, he said Tuesday, with final state contract approvals expected this week. Once that happens, Innes added, the next step will be to inspect and assess the condition of thousands of utility poles around the county on which the fiber infrastructure will be placed.
It will be a process that will take time, Innes said. This is the first time in 20 months that anyone with All Points has mentioned pole-by-pole inspections.
Global supply issues could also impact the schedule, Innes noted. However, All Points already has a commitment from a distributor and fabricator in South Carolina who will build the fiber and associated equipment for the Culpeper project, Innes said. Purchase orders have already been placed, he said, with the authorization of the supervisory board.
“The price is going up,” he said. “We try to order as soon as possible.”
Innes noted that some households meeting the income requirements could receive a $30 per month discount for internet service under a federal affordability program.
Once fiber is in place, residents who wish to connect will pay a $99 fee for a maximum extension of 500 feet to their home. Beyond 500 feet, All Points will charge $1.15 to $1.25 per additional foot to establish the connection. The service will start at $59.99 per month, going up to $109.99.
Culpeper County Grants Administrator Laura Loveday, addressing the extended timeline, said the state didn’t finalize its model contract until May 20 for the various locations around Virginia pursuing similar projects using government funds.
“We all want to be under contract as soon as possible so we can move on,” she told the board on Tuesday.
In the first phase of the project, residents will see a number of trucks and crews perform utility pole analysis, a process that could take up to six months.
Once that’s done and poles are replaced or repaired, that’s when fiber-to-the-home can begin, Loveday said.
Residents will be notified 90 days prior to their move-in date. A quarter of eligible Project Fiber residents determined to be in unserved areas have already pre-registered at allpointsbroadband.com/culpeper/.
Salem supervisor Tom Underwood asked if utility companies were aware of the condition of their poles, saying the ones where he lives in Reva were installed in the 1950s.
“Will this work?” he said. “Can’t we work on that now? We need a contract before we can go see the poles? »
Underwood was in favor of an expedited process. Innes said they would try to pre-approve as many poles as possible, planning several months of pole work before fiber could begin.
All Points, thanks to recent state grants, will also oversee fiber projects in more than a dozen other locations, all beginning at around the same time, pending state contract approvals.
According to the contract with Culpeper County, the project here must be completed within 18 months of state approval of the contract, by the end of 2023, at the earliest.
Board Chairman Gary Deal asked for a better estimate of when fiber construction would begin. Innes said the fourth quarter of this year.
“Once the process begins, we’ll move forward pretty quickly,” Innes said.