Don’t everybody look at once, but thanks to the Federal Communications Commission internet broadband is increasingly creeping its way into Rappahannock County.
CenturyLink has recently informed Chester Gap and Huntly area residents whose properties they will need to access that fiber facilities will soon be installed in that portion of Rappahannock County, all thanks to the FCC’s “Connect America Fund” — a $506 million program currently in Phase 2 of expanding broadband and voice services in areas where they are unavailable.
The FCC has been providing funding to local telephone companies — in this case CenturyLink — to subsidize the cost of building new network infrastructure for the services. The six-year program is underway in 33 states, including portions of Virginia and Rappahannock County.
“The new fiber optic cable will be used to bring the initial internet service into Rappahannock County,” CenturyLink says in a letter, forwarded to this newspaper by a Huntly couple. “Plans are to continue to expand the internet service in the future as we move into additional locations within the county in support of the Connect America initiative. The new fiber cable will follow the ‘existing’ electric power lines and be attached to ‘existing’ Rappahannock Electric power poles.”
CenturyLink is already providing compensation to Chester Gap and Huntly residents whose property and easement tracts it is accessing for the placement of the aerial fiber.
Responding to an inquiry from the Huntly couple, CenturyLink Right of Way Agent Ricky Reed stated: “I am working with every landowner from Chester Gap down to Huntly (bottom of the mountain) who has power lines on their property.”
The Hunty couple, who asked not to be identified, says they were caught off guard by the planned installation of the fiber, the initial phase of which impacts 40 landowners. They acknowledge being concerned about damage to their property during the fiber installation.
“My husband and I were unaware of this project until we were contacted by CL [CenturyLink] via letter received [in] February this year,” the wife states. “I was and still am in complete support of this project. However, I do not like the heavy-handed approach used by CL.
“As this project not only affects me, it is going to be affecting many more property owners in Rappahannock County. [B]eing forewarned is being forearmed.”
A CenturyLink representative met with the couple, who were given an easement agreement to review that provided a compensation of $200.
Alerted to the couple’s concerns, Linda M. Johnson, who handles corporate communications for CenturyLink, said: “As customer service is a priority for CenturyLink, homeowners are notified prior to work beginning. Upon completion of work, it is our policy to restore the landscape to the previous condition or better.”
By installing the cable in Rappahannock County, CenturyLink has agreed to the minimum requirements for broadband and voice services as set forth by the FCC’s Connect America Fund. They are:
— Speed: CenturyLink must offer broadband at speeds of at least 10 megabits per second downstream and 1 Mbps upstream.
— Latency: Century Link’s network latency cannot be higher than 100 milliseconds round trip. Latency is the time it takes for a data packet to travel back and forth through a network.
— Usage Allowance: Currently, the carrier must offer at least one plan with a minimum usage allowance of at least 150 gigabytes per month, or in certain circumstances, a plan with 100 GB of usage.
— Pricing: CenturyLink must offer service at rates reasonably comparable to rates in urban areas.
An FCC map shows where in Rappahannock that CenturyLink anticipates the new broadband and voice services to be available once the fiber installation is completed in the coming months and years.
It encompasses but is not limited to much of the northern portions of the county, including large swaths surrounding Chester Gap and Huntly south in various locations to US 211, a large area in the vicinity of Ben Venue, the county seat of Washington, the western reaches of Harris Hollow and Gid Brown Hollow, and Tiger Valley south to the vicinity of Long Mountain Road.