DALEVILLE — During Tuesday afternoon’s board of supervisors meeting, Botetourt County officially declared that the week of October 5-11 will be Botetourt Broadband Week.
This celebration of community progress and connectivity is designed to raise awareness of the county’s last three years of effort to enhance broadband connectivity across the county.
The celebration was planned to coincide with National Digital Inclusion Week sponsored by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance.
“While there is still much to be done, we wanted to take the time to reflect on the tremendous progress our community has made over the last three years,” Supervisor Mac Scothorn said. “It’s incredible that we have developed strategies and partnerships that will successfully connect nearly 1,400 new homes and businesses by the end of the calendar year.”
At the same meeting, a representative from the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo) presented the board of supervisors with an Achievement Award for its Broadband deployment strategy.
“Rural broadband deployment is one of the most difficult challenges of our era,” Chris McDonald from VACo said. “Botetourt has been a shining example of how systematic progress leads to measurable impact and community benefit.”
Since they issued their first telecommunications interest survey in the fall of 2017, the county has been working to prioritize broadband access across the county. In March 2018, they formed the Botetourt County Broadband Commission and, by fall, held the BOCO Summit, a first of its kind strategy and innovation summit that attracted industry leading experts to speak on a wide array of possible strategies and solutions for the county.
In 2019, the county then hired Sandy Terry, a well-known technology consultant to help define and prioritize local project priorities and grant application opportunities.
Over the last three years, Botetourt County has made significant improvement in broadband connectivity securing $760,000 in Virginia Telecommunications Initiative grant funds and attracting multiple new broadband providers to the area.
While the county does not directly build telecommunications infrastructure, the county has worked closely with new and existing service providers to drive new investment directly to the areas that need coverage the most. Using the strategic plan launched in 2019, they are making measurable strides and incrementally improving internet access, speed and reliability county-wide.
During the COVID-19 global health crisis, the county received Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding and other grants to help the community cope with the pandemic. Botetourt County has allocated more than 50 percent of these funds for broadband expansion — an estimated $2.9 million.
“Broadband is top of mind for our entire community,” County Administrator Gary Larrowe said. “During these challenging times, access and affordability are more critical considerations than ever before but we’re making the right moves and starting to really reap the rewards. I’d like to personally thank everyone in the community for their patience and support as we all continue to work together to address this important priority effort.”
“I continue to be incredibly proud to serve this community,” Chairman Billy Martin said. “While so many are complaining about the state of rural broadband, we’re not sitting back. We’re doing something about it. It’s not a quick fix like we all would enjoy, but we’re really getting there, one strategic step at a time.”
The Virginian Review has been serving Covington, Clifton Forge, Alleghany County and Bath County since 1914.