BERRYVILLE — Clarke County residents are invited to participate in an online forum about matters involved in efforts to provide high-speed internet, also known as broadband, to areas lacking it.
The program, scheduled for 6:30 tonight, is sponsored by Repower REC, a grassroots campaign seeking to make governance within Rappahannock Electric Cooperative more transparent and democratic among its member-owners, according to its Facebook page.
Guest speaker will be Christopher Ali, a professor in the Department of Media Studies at the University of Virginia. Ali will will discuss the differences between fiber-optic cable to the home and alternatives such as as fixed-wireless internet and Starlink satellite internet.
Fixed-wireless internet involves providing broadband via radio waves. Starlink, a service being developed by a private company, involves broadband being delivered by many small satellites being placed into low orbits around the Earth.
Ali is a nationally recognized expert on rural broadband, said Seth Heald, Repower REC's co-founder.
The professor's book, "Farm Fresh Broadband: The Politics of Rural Connectivity," is set to be published by MIT Press this fall, Heald said.
Much of largely rural Clarke County lacks broadband service. County officials are trying to find ways to work with providers to bring the service to more areas. They say high-speed internet has become essential for personal and business communications.
During the forum, Repower REC also will provide a brief update on the Grano vs. Rappahannock Electric Co-op federal lawsuit filed last October. The suit challenges a law enacted in Virginia last year allowing electric utilities to use existing easements to provide fiber-optic cable for high-speed internet.
REC officials have said the suit prompted the cooperative to abandon its efforts to provide broadband within its 22-county service area, which includes Clarke County.
Repower REC believes "it’s odd that REC abandoned broadband efforts just because of that," Heald wrote in an email to The Winchester Star.
To sign up to participate in tonight's forum, go online to Facebook.com/RepowerREC.
Repower REC is not affiliated with Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, Heald emphasized.