People in Internet Dead Zone Outside Scottsville Fight for Service
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va (WVIR) -
An area right outside of Scottsville is an Internet dead zone. People living there say they've tried for years to get Sprint and Century Link to upgrade the phone lines to broadband and now they're fed up with not having Internet - but Century Link does say it's trying all options to get them connected.
"I'm not connected to a network," said Bebe Williams, as he showed attempted to access the Internet from his home, about four miles from downtown Scottsville. "There's never been an Internet line here ever, in this whole area.”
Williams is the publisher of the Scottsville Weekly, but he can’t work on the paper unless he's in the office. "We can't work at home unless we don't depend on the Internet," he said.
Williams said the broadband seems to go out around James River Road. “A ‘rural, neglected area’ is what I call it," he said.
So whenever Williams needs to get work done he packs up and heads to downtown Scottsville. In order to use the Internet, Williams goes to the town's visitor's center. "Which is the fastest Internet in the whole town," he said.
Some people who live right outside Scottsville say they don't have Internet service and they don't care. That's part of living in a rural area, they say. Others agree with Williams that there needs to be more access to the Internet for people in rural Albemarle County.
"It limits the person that wants to work from home or it limits the activity that they can do in their own home, so maybe they don't want to live in this area because of that," said George Goodwin, Scottsville town administrator.
"A lot of people don't have the ability so they come to the library at 5:30 in the morning just to get near the active Internet, or come to town and come to the library during the day, which serves a great purpose, but it's still pretty sad that you can't get Internet at home," said Goodwin.
Goodwin knows how tough it is to live without Internet at home. He doesn't have Internet in his own home outside Scottsville.
"Century Link provides service in town and some of the surrounding areas, but certainly not very far. It's rather spotty," said Goodwin. "So if you live in the county you're on your own pretty much."
Williams said Century Link has proposed some alternatives, but he and his neighbors said those options are too expensive and ineffective. One of those options is satellite Internet. "But it's very horrible actually, nobody wants it,” said Williams.
Another option available is Verizon hotspot service.
"When I moved here, Century Link told me they couldn't service me. They gave me the backup plan, which is the hotspot through Verizon Wireless.Then everyone I talked to that had that was disappointed with that and wanted to get their money back," said Williams. "It just didn't work."
Simone Alley, a market development manager for Century Link, said it's cost prohibitive to bring broadband to rural areas where there would only be a few users. But she said in November the company used a government grant called the Connect America Fund (CAF) to help offset some of the cost to bring service to 180 homes in Scottsville and Schuyler. The sites are chosen based on how many customers it would serve, and even with CAF funds it's still a big financial undertaking for Century Link, she explained.
"Century Link is spending a lot of our own capital dollars to build out broadband and improve our network. The two projects in Scottsville and Schuyler allow us to provide service to 180 plus new homes, spending over a half million dollars and laying over 110,000 feet/21 miles fiber. We have done many projects like this in central Virginia, not only to deploy broadband to rural areas but to evolve our network to allow for higher speeds of Internet," said Alley via email.
Alley said the government is reviewing how the first round of CAF funds went and it's working to decide if there will be another round available to help in more remote areas.
"A program like that is needed to reach some of those hard to reach areas," said Alley. "We're hoping that there will be another round and that it would help in that area," she said, referring to the area outside of Scottsville where Williams lives.
Alley said Century Link is preparing internally for what they think they'll need if there is a round two.
In the meantime, Williams and other people living outside of Scottsville without Internet service vow to continue petitioning and even working with a task force on this issue until they get Internet.
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