Craig County is in the midst of a broadband study to determine the state of internet coverage in the Alleghany Highlands. The county is asking that residents and businesses take technical surveys to help the county understand what is and isn’t available in the area.
Craig County joined the study six months ago when it was invited by the Alleghany Highlands Region, including Alleghany County, Clifton Forge, Covington and northern Botetourt, to participate in a regional broadband planning grant. The grant is funded by the Virginia Department of Housing and Development, with the local match provided by the Alleghany Foundation.
According to Craig County Administrator Clay Goodman, services are sporadic throughout the county. Goodman said the challenge Craig County faces is its small population base, as the low density areas make it challenging for providers to offer internet and broadband at a reasonable price.
“What we’re doing is sort of marrying what other jurisdiction have done throughout the state of Virginia, which is to look at the opportunities, the assets and the challenges that we have regarding broadband services,” Goodman said. “With growing reliance by businesses to accessibility to fast and less expensive broadband, we thought we needed to look at opportunities.”
Goodman said one of the major assets that Craig County possesses is a large broadband fiber that runs through the area from Botetourt County to Giles and Blacksburg, which is owned and operated by MidAtlantic Broadband, and was installed about five years ago, funded by a MidAtlantic and Virginia Tech grant.
The fiber is currently being accessed by some third-party partners, including some citizens. Goodman said he believes more people in Craig County would work from home and even become entrepreneurs if they had access to appropriate internet speed.
Currently, the county isn’t working with any internet companies. It is working with a consultant from Design Nine, Inc., which is a Blacksburg firm that has conducted studies throughout the state of Virginia to evaluate broadband. Goodman said he hopes that the planning study will be completed by fall of 2016, and that from the planning study, the county will be able to identify potential next steps.
“We’re hopeful from Craig’s perspective that we can identify how we can better leverage broadband that is already existing in Craig through grant opportunities or a private/public partnership to improve services to our citizens,” Goodman said.
To take the survey and learn more about the study, visit http://craigcountyva.gov/broadband-survey/. Paper surveys are available at the county administrator’s office that can be mailed upon request. Paper surveys are also available at the library. The survey will be ongoing for about another month.