I listened recently to the “Wi-Fi Update” provided by Accomack County
Administrator Mike Mason at the January Board of Supervisors meeting.
The responsiveness of local entities has been significant in addressing expansion of internet services into areas of high concentrations of school children, such as in the three recently targeted areas in Onancock, near Tasley, and near Hallwood. Providing increased access throughout the county must be continuously coordinated with commercial providers, local government, and the public. I would like to see a larger emphasis on planning based on public input.
In fact, much of the planning and strategizing on the commercial provider end seems to be not widely disclosed, possibly due to competitive marketing. As a result, some neighborhoods, such as Cashville, end up with multiple options for connection with ES Broadband, Spectrum, Verizon, and NeuBeam. Then there are other less central locations where school children are struggling to access lessons, remote workers are unable to telecommute, and other residents may not have access to medical information. I’ve been working with the local chapter of Virginia Organizing (VO) to host public forums to make an assessment of access through the perspective of the consumer so we can provide another layer of knowledge in connecting the highest number of residents with the services they need.
While fiber-optic cables are now reaching deeper into the community, there are still many situations where individual installation fees (sometimes between $1,000-$4,000) make the access unattainable for large segments of the population. The upcoming VATI Grant monies should focus on lessening the prohibitive installation fee problem and spreading out the service to avoid the clustering of providers in some centralized areas while overlooking others (which may be less convenient for commercial providers). I urge the county to recognize that internet access is no longer an amenity, but is now a necessity for survival in our current circumstances and may need to be regarded as a public utility.
Miriam Riggs, Onancock