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Montgomery officials: Broadband issue needs to be solved

Expanding the availability of high-speed internet should continue during the COVID-19 pandemic, Montgomery County officials say.

“It’s created a sense of urgency. It’s made it even more obvious. When you have all these school kids who have to take their entire lessons at home on chromebooks … you got to have broadband to do that,” county Board of Supervisors Chairman Steve Fijalkowski said.

Supervisors recently received the final report on an assessment of high-speed internet across the county and the neighboring city of Radford. The report was prepared by engineering and architectural firm Thompson & Litton and the Blue Ridge Advisory Services Group, a telecom and energy consultant.

Among other key points, the assessment found that the portion of the Montgomery County and Radford population unserved by high-speed internet falls at 7.6%, which is slightly above the national rate of 6%.

The report describes that finding as surprising due to the view that the Montgomery County area is a hub of innovation, economic development and growth in Southwest Virginia. The report points out that the area is home to world class academic and research institutions such as Virginia Tech.

In addition to providing broadband to school-age children, the report says another objective identified by Montgomery leadership is that so-called knowledge workers must have ubiquitous access to high-speed internet.

“Montgomery County is rich in fiber optic deployments,” the report reads. “At least five companies have fiber optic backbones that traverse the county.”

Still, that hasn’t prevented some residents from having poor internet service, said Bob Picchi, who formed the Blue Ridge Advisory Services Group.

To learn more, check out the whole article below.