County broadband ideas closer to adoption

Posted: November 15, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Frederick County has received a set of recommendations to help increase citizens’ access to broadband Internet and improve service in rural areas west of Interstate 81.

The recommendations were announced during a Thursday night meeting in the county’s Administration Building on North Kent Street. The meeting served as a conclusion of the county’s Broadband Survey — in which more than 2,200 residents participated — and the recommendations developed by the Herndon-based Center for Innovative Technology (CIT).

Although the meeting was sparsely attended, Frederick County Information Technology Director Walter Banks wanted to thank the public for its participation in the study.

“We definitely heard from the public ... and the public is the hero in this,” he said.

“Any progress we’ve made is really due to technology and the public requesting it, because it was the public that kept on saying, ‘Hey look, I’d like to get this [broadband] service. I live in a beautiful community, we love Frederick County, but we don’t have access to broadband technologies and we really want that.’”

The CIT produced recommendations that Winchester and the county could work on and some that would only be applicable to the county.

Recommendations that either locality could work on include providing a list of all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the area and their contact information on the county and city websites, promoting and expanding technology education classes at local libraries and starting a communitywide computer refurbishment program that would allow citizens to donate old computers that would be refurbished and available for low-income residents.

County-specific recommendations included the construction of three or four telecommunications towers west of I-81 and speaking with owners of existing towers about allowing ISPs to use the towers to extend service.

Art Christjohn, a Winchester resident who has friends in the county, said after the meeting that he attended because there’s a need in the area for better public access to broadband Internet.

The recommendations will now go to the county’s Broadband Management Team — which will be asked to accept the report — and from there to the Board of Supervisors for the possible prioritization and adoption of the information, according to Patrick Fly, the county’s geographic information systems manager.

— Contact Matt Armstrong at marmstrong@winchesterstar.com