Jefferson County is home to some of the most iconic scenes in the country, from historic Harpers Ferry, to the courthouse in Charlestown, and to beautiful views of the Shenandoah, Potomac and Opequon rivers. Unfortunately, for many residents, internet connectivity is antiquated or just nonexistent. Many homes situated along the rivers, near farmland, and scattered throughout the county, have been stuck with slow internet for decades.
But change is coming. Just this last week, homeowners all over Jefferson County got some hopeful news. At the Jefferson County Commission meeting on Thursday, January 19, the Commission voted to accept the recommendation of the Jefferson County Development Authority to select Comcast as the county’s partner to expand high speed internet to most of the addresses in the county. With this vote, the county has access to approximately $18 million of grant dollars through the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council and Comcast has committed to deploy, within the next 24 months, a fiber network that can deliver 1 Gigabit/sec of download speed to 2,100 homes currently underserved by the internet. The network upgrades to support the new services will extend throughout the county, to benefit all residents.
Homeowners Voice, a WV nonprofit advocacy group, has been monitoring the GigReady program for over a year. This program is designed to build out high speed internet access for West Virginians and is funded by hundreds of millions of dollars from federal and local funds. Homeowners Voice has knocked on doors across the county and held open houses to hear from our neighbors about their interest in finally getting reliable and adequate internet access. The nearly unanimous response was both frustration over the poor service so far and the hope that their neighborhood would finally be in line to get on line.
Over 2,000 addresses in Jefferson County have been identified as not having adequate internet bandwidth to work from home, use telemedicine, or attend school remotely (you can lookup the quality of service available at any address using the online map created by the West Virginia Office of Broadband). During COVID, that lack of connectivity hit many residents hard as they found themselves isolated. Lack of internet is also a financial hit for homeowners looking to sell — savvy buyers are reluctant to purchase homes without access to high speed internet.
Applying For The Funding Is The First Step
The money is available to do the work and the County and the vendor are getting ready to start the work — but homeowners need to be vigilant in following the progress to ensure the connectivity actually reaches their house. A great deal is at stake, and Homeowners Voice is committed to keeping homeowners aware of the progress and obstacles ahead.
Daniel Bennett is the Executive Director of Homeowners Voice, a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization. His career has focused on the intersection of technology, government and civic engagement. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 304-207-0710. For more information about Homeowners Voice and it’s “Stuck with Slow Internet” resources to assist homeowners visit HomeownersVoice.com.By Daniel Bennett