News & Updates

Board of Supervisors Update October 2017
http://louisacounty.com/DocumentCenter/View/2218

Update August 2017
Louisa County Broadband Initiative and the Louisa County Broadband Authority


Timeline

September 2008 - CCG Consulting completed a study on Broadband in Louisa County – partially funded by a $25,000 grant from the VA Department of Housing and Community Development.

March 2011 – The County issued RFP IT-11-02 for County-Wide Broadband Initiative.  CVALink was the only qualified bidder - Phase 1 proposed connecting WiMAX radios to 24 existing sites for $2.4 million with an operating budget of $1.1 million. Phase II added 28 sites with steel monopoles for an additional $3.5 million and an additional operating cost of $571,000. Upon completion 97% of homes in Louisa would be able to get service. The earthquake occurred in August and the project was put on hold by the Board of Supervisors due to potential funding issues.

February 2014 - The Board of Supervisors created the Broadband Authority, which had their first meeting in June of 2014. For the next two years, the Authority members investigated technologies and business models appropriate for Louisa. They also modified the Telecomm Ordinance to make the process of installing broadband equipment and towers much simpler. Staff and/or Authority members  met with state and federal officials to seek public funds and resources, as well as with private sector entities considering public-private partnerships. The Authority issued an RFP that was awarded to Design Nine to “provide the Authority with effective and actionable courses of action that will promote the availability of affordable, high speed broadband and Internet services in Louisa County”.

May 2015 – Design Nine submits their final report calling for construction of a County-Wide Broadband Infrastructure of 9-10 towers connected by a ring of backhaul radios. The first draft proposed constructing fiber links to every school and to some of the business parks in the County. This plan was over $5 million and was deemed to be too expensive for the Board to consider at this time. The schools are pursuing eRate funding for the construction of fiber between the schools and the County Administration building and are working with the Authority to make both projects mutually beneficial. The primary purposes of the modified plan are to:

    1) encourage independent Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) to locate on these towers and supply broadband service to residents and businesses in the coverage areas around each tower. Additionally, the WISPs would be able to bridge off these towers to a neighborhood pole for those areas beyond the tower’s reach. By offering lower tower lease prices and a backhaul service to all our the Authority’s towers, we expect one or more providers to collocate on every tower.
   2) locate towers on each school property to serve as a backup to their fiber connections and to eventually take advantage of those fiber connections to provide backhaul rather than relying just on the radios.


December 2015 - the Board of Supervisors allocated $1.1 million to the Authority to develop and construct the County-wide Broadband Infrastructure Project.

April 2016 - the Authority issued an RFP that was awarded to Wide Open Networks for “Construction of Wireless Network Infrastructure and Ongoing Network Operations”.  The first task was to complete the network design and to identify potential tower locations.

November 2016 - Final report submitted by Wide Open Networks. The Authority and their consultants began preparing applications and site plans for an initial “fast-track” set of three to four towers. Three of these towers were issued Conditional Use Permits (CUPs) at the July 2017 Joint Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors meeting. Preparations for final site plans and an Invitation for Bid (IFB) for tower construction are ongoing with construction anticipated in the fall of 2017.

Internet Technologies

Cost aside, wired (fiber or cable) internet is clearly the preferred method for internet service. The Authority found that installing fiber to the household (FTTH) in Louisa County would cost close to $100 million. When discussing FTTH with the FCC, who was also recommending going with fiber, they assured us it would “only” be about $60 million. The Authority certainly plans on utilizing fiber wherever it can and would encourage neighborhoods to consider laying fiber in their specific locations.

Google (now Alphabet) had great plans to blanket large cities, like Kansas City which has over 600 homes per square mile, with fiber. Compare this with Louisa County which has about 33 homes per square mile. Their income stream would be close to twenty times higher per month for every square mile thy covered than it would be in rural areas like Louisa County.  Google has now ceased their completion and expansion plans and are investigating hybrid fiber and wireless methodologies. Microsoft is investing in new wireless systems in southwest Virginia using TV white space frequencies, which the Authority also investigated and found “not quite ready” and cost-prohibitive for our financial resources.

Verizon is reportedly using wireless for some of the last-mile connections with their FIOS fiber product, instead of continuing the fiber run all the way to the household or business.

New wireless technologies are being developed including the TV white space, LTE, and 5G. Some of these are achieving speeds of 50-100 mb/sec which would be adequate for most households and businesses in Louisa. Having the tower infrastructure already in place and upgrading the backhaul service with fiber when it becomes available would make implementing these technologies feasible.

Broadband Authority Funding

Fiscal Year

CIP

Carryover

Total Budget

Actual Spend

Remaining

FY2015

$100,000

 

$100,000

$44,925

$55,075

FY2016

$1,150,152

$55,075

$1,150,152

$3,362

$1,146,790

FY2017

$0

$1,146,790

$1,146,790

$0

$1,146,790

 

Broadband Authority Expenditures to Date

1)      1) Design Nine – Creation of a County-wide Broadband Infrastructure - $48,437 for FY15 and FY16

2)      2) Wide Open Networks has a contract for $159,000, part of the $1,146,790 CIP budget, to complete the network/tower design and to oversee the bidding and construction for Phase 1. 

Previous notes
  • The Authority has awarded a contract to Wide Open Networks to oversee Construction of a Wireless Network Infrastructure and Ongoing Network Operations.
  • The Authority presented their request for funding Phase I of the Broadband plan at the Supervisor's Dec 7 2015 meeting. A public hearing was scheduled and held Jan 19 2016 for a budget amendment allowing the requested funding of $1.1 million to implement a first phase consisting of ten towers, connected with high-speed microwave radios and and intended for location by wireless internet service providers (WISP) for both serving local customers and hopping off to neighborhood poles.
  • The Draft Final Report was presented to the Board of Supervisors at the June 1 2015 meeting.
  • The Authority has selected Design Nine out of Blacksburg as their consultant to assist in furthering the Authority's plan for county-wide broadband coverage in Louisa County. Representatives from Design Nine will attend the Board of Supervisor's meeting on the Feb 2 2015 and will stay for the Authority meeting on the 3rd - both in the County Public Meeting Room.
  • Our proposed changes to the Telecomm Ordinance and Master Plan are proceeding, currently in Community Development Department and our Telecomm consultant's reviews. Anticipated that these changes will make it to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisor Public Hearings February 2015.
  • FCC meeting Oct 10 2014 - Mike Lockaby and Bob Hardy met with Mr. Chambers at the FCC in Washington to discuss the potentiality of Louisa participating in their experimental grant opportunity. Take-away from the meeting was that our Authority and County are probably not far enough along in our plan development to participate this year, but were encouraged to prepare for next year's grant cycle. We should also plan on teaming up with local utility cooperatives to be looked on favorably by the FCC selection process.
  • SCC meeting Sep 30 2014 - County Attorney Mike Lockaby and IT Director Bob Hardy met with SCC representatives in Richmond to discuss the FCC experimental grant funding. They were encouraging and suggested we meet with the FCC to discuss Louisa County.