Nelson County is awarded $1.8 million in federal stimulus funding to expand its broadband internet access. It's going to take about two years to bring broadband to unserved and underserved parts of the county. Once in place government agencies, schools, a library and a medical center will have a direct connection to broadband and it will undoubtedly change the way those institutions operate.
The phrase "dial-up" sounds like a technological term from the past but for many in Nelson County it's the only way to access the internet.
Candy McGarry, the administrative assistant and deputy clerk for Nelson County, says "It does seem odd but in a rural area that's pretty much all that's available."
To expand broadband access in the county, it will cost about $2.2 million.
"The funding was definitely not guaranteed and we just found out that we got it so we're really excited," said McGarry.
The Blue Ridge Medical Center sees 9,000 patients every year. They need good internet access to be able to deploy telemedicine capabilities and allow health care providers access to patient records from home. Next month, the medical center is transitioning to digital x-rays so the images can be sent to hospitals over the internet.
Peggy Whitehead, executive director of Blue Ridge Medical Center, says "It is wonderful for us but that requires sending the x-rays to UVA to be read or where ever we have a radiologist who reads the x-rays and that requires good internet access with high speed."
Currently, the medical center uses a T1 line. It's faster than dial-up but it's expensive, costing $1200 a month.
"There are no hospitals in Nelson County and so we have a very important role here to make sure people are getting good access to health care," said Whitehead.
There will be 31 miles of new fiber optic cable and four new wireless towers, stretching from the north to the south of the county. The project plans to provide more affordable broadband service for as many as 1500 households and 250 businesses.