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As some residents wait, Amherst County works to fill gaps in broadband service

In nearly two decades of living at her current home in Amherst County, Monica Dean said her massive struggles with affordable high-speed internet access make her feel like she and her husband have been left behind.

The retired couple lives in the Bobwhite Road area of the county, where the internet is slow, unreliable and costly when it’s even working, she said, and they’ve dealt with high cellphone bills.

“If I had known about these problems when I moved here, we would not be living in Amherst County today,” Dean said. “I feel like the entire county has been left behind, and its children are going to suffer because of it.”

County officials are working to resolve online woes of residents and businesses through a broadband expansion effort with the help of companies to have all homes covered with reliable service.

While areas of Madison Heights and the town of Amherst are covered, county officials have said many rural areas outside of those urban hubs are underserved or unserved, and the goal is to fill in those gaps. The county in 2019 began allowing use of public safety towers for a local company to cover more homes and a portion of federal stimulus money to deal with many effects of the coronavirus pandemic has been geared toward broadband upgrades.

County Administrator Dean Rodgers said $1.8 million is currently obligated with Firefly Fiber Broadband, a subsidiary of Central Virginia Electric Cooperative, to install fiber-optic cable in the Gladstone, Temperance and Boxwood Farm areas. That work is set for completion before the end of the year as part of a deadline for spending the federal money.

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