By Carol Vaughn —
Tangier is getting broadband internet service.
The Eastern Shore of Virginia Broadband Authority last week had a crew on Tangier installing fiber to provide broadband service to the island town, population around 700.
Just under 2 1/2 miles of fiber was being installed throughout town in the week-long effort — that is sufficient to serve all 300 or so homes as well as businesses.
Tangier is the 19th town where the authority has offered fiber-to-the-home service, according to ESVBA executive director Robert Bridgham.
“Out of all the incorporated towns on the Eastern Shore, it’s the only town we didn’t have a presence in until now,” he said.
Still, this particular operation, taking place on an island in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, was different from the others.
“Operating in a remote place like an island certainly brings a lot of challenges that are not part of our normal efforts,” Bridgham said.
“It was a huge logistical challenge…but my staff has worked very hard to make sure that this happens,” he said.
Equipment was transported by barge from Crisfield, Md., and crew members had to be prepared to stay on the island during the project. A small-craft advisory could affect whether someone could get there or go back to the mainland.
Additionally, advance planning was paramount when it came to supplies.
“Most of the equipment that we work with, the materials that we work with, are not something that you can commonly get at a local store, so it’s very challenging to make sure that you don’t forget anything. Here, if we forgot a piece of equipment, we could run back to the office and pick it up. Obviously, it’s not quite as easy to run across the Bay,” Bridgham said.
Questions of how to refuel gasoline or diesel vehicles or equipment on an island where there are no gas stations also had to be resolved.
“How do you fuel up? How do you operate on streets where you can barely drive a golf cart in some cases? There are a lot of tight places,” he said.
The service to the island should be up and running by May.
In addition to the fiber-laying operation, the feed from the island back to the mainland, “several microwave lengths,” needs to be completed, which involves installing microwave dishes on the island and then aligning dishes on the mainland correctly with them to complete the feed.
“We’ve been targeting Tangier since the start of this buildup two and a half years ago,” Bridgham said.
The authority sent mailers to residents last week to let them know the service is available.
“We’ve started establishing plans so that…we are routinely going out to the island and hooking up customers on an ongoing basis,” Bridgham, predicting, “I think for at least the next few months…we’ll be out on the island an awful lot.”
“Everybody on the island, from the local power company folks to even the local restaurants…everyone has been very excited and bubbling with anticipation,” he said.
The town itself has been “extremely helpful” by providing a place to put equipment and giving access to the water tower needed for the feed back to the mainland, he said.
Residents even offered use of their vehicles if the crew needed them while on the island.
“It’s that level of cooperation and support that is pretty amazing, and we appreciate that,” Bridgham said.
Tangier residents can inquire about service via email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or go through the website, https://esvba.com/residential/ and submit for a quote. People also can call the sales line at 757-709-7080.