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LOUISA, VIRGINIA – At its meeting on September 8, 2020, the Louisa County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved earmarking $15,000,000 to incentivize the deployment of end-user fiber on a Countywide basis.
“The time to act is now,” said Fitzgerald Barnes, Patrick Henry District Supervisor. “We’re ready to make this necessity a reality for our citizens.”
The County has a track record of active support for broadband deployment. The Louisa County Broadband Authority has undertaken a roughly $1,000,000 wireless broadband project, and the Board also approved a $550,000 tax abatement agreement with Central Virginia Electric Cooperative (CVEC) to support their fiber deployment efforts in the County.
Fiber can be costly, and electric utilities represent a desirable potential deployment solution due to their existing easements and infrastructure. Federal and state funds such as the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund and the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative are now available to offset some of these costs, and the County’s incentive is intended to further close the financial gap. The County continues to work with CVEC, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative and Dominion on the issue.
“Funding continues to be a major barrier in finding a solution,” said Tommy Barlow, Mountain Road District Supervisor. “The Board is at the table and prepared to overcome that challenge.”
As is the case in rural localities across the nation, COVID-19 has further exacerbated the digital divide in Louisa. Teleworking, telemedicine, distance learning, and many other necessities are often heavily reliant on internet speeds which could be improved by end-user fiber. Additional fiber deployment would also provide the means for further economic growth in the County through expanded online business access.
“A lack of high speed internet access shouldn’t define the borders of rural localities,” said Christian Goodwin, County Administrator. “Whether it’s enabling work, education or recreation, viable connectivity has become a critical contingent of thriving communities.”