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Broadband Internet Project Funds Fall Short in Nelson County - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Broadband Internet Project Funds Fall Short in Nelson County

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Some people living in Nelson County are forking out more than $1,000 just to have access to high-speed Internet. 

The $1.8 million of federal stimulus funding can only cover so much of the broadband Internet project. Now, customers are left picking up the rest of the bill. 

Nelson County officials say, because the stimulus money was for a middle-mile broadband project, it only stretches so far. That leaves customers footing the construction bill if they want to hook up to high-speed Internet and that bill isn't cheap. 

It's a sound many of us dread and most barely remember: a dial-up tone. For many people living in Nelson County, it's the only way to access the Internet. 

The broadband Internet project was supposed to be a way for everybody to get high-speed Internet. 

"It was a middle-mile project, which basically lays the infrastructure for people to connect to," said Susan Rorrer, director of information systems for Nelson County. 

And high speed has a high price. Blue Ridge Internet Works, one of the providers for the project, says its monthly billing price is reasonable; it's the construction fee that will burn a serious hole in your pocket. 

"There's still the cost of connecting a house, which we estimate will be around $1,000 to $2,000," said Baylor Fooks, with Blue Ridge Internet Works. 

Because Blue Ridge Internet Works is simply a provider - not the owner of the service - it is not responsible for providing construction services.  

Michael Levi, who lives in Nelson County, says he was all for purchasing the new broadband Internet until he learned about the construction fee. He says it's a fee many people can't afford, and he believes that defeats the entire purpose of the project.  

"The whole idea of supposedly the national government's plan to get Internet to rural neighborhoods was so everybody could have it," Levi said.

Fooks says there is a way to cut down on the construction fee. Neighbors can split the cost of a fiber optic line, to be installed from the network backbone to their homes. Then they can each pay the individual price from where the optic line ends to their individual property lines. 

Other providers can still jump on board the project but Fooks says it doesn't matter which provider you pick - there's no getting around the construction fee.

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