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Montgomery officials hope for progress soon on broadband expansion

An update Monday on an initiative to expand broadband is slated be heard by the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors.

The discussion will follow up on comments from County Administrator Craig Meadows, who said during the July 13 board meeting that the county at the time had received four proposals for broadband partnerships.

Meadows told supervisors that each proposal came from wireless providers. He also said a committee had been set up to review the proposals.

County officials haven’t provided further details on the providers.

“Since a vendor has not been chosen at this time, I don’t have details that I can share regarding the proposals submitted,” county spokeswoman Jennifer Harris wrote in an email.

Harris said more details will be revealed after negotiations are complete and a vendor is chosen.

The most recent update on the county’s broadband initiative comes a few months after the provision of a final report on high-speed internet availability 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 points, the assessment found that the portion of the Montgomery and Radford population unserved by high-speed internet falls at 7.6%, which is slightly above the national rate of 6%.

The report described 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 notes the area being home to institutions such as Virginia Tech.

Montgomery supervisors say they hope the broadband issue can be addressed soon, especially in light of the setbacks created by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s one of our priority issues,” Supervisor Mary Biggs said. “We really need someone that can take that on as their job and be able to pursue and work with different companies, whatever it might be and getting the grants.”

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