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Orange County Public Schools Launching Rural Broadband Initiative

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at Orange County Public Schools at Orange County Public Schools
ORANGE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) -

Orange County is creating its own broadband network to bring high-speed internet to more remote parts of the county. First, it will connect all of the county's schools before bringing businesses and homes online.

This $1.3 million project is the start of the Rural Broadband Initiative to cover the county with affordable, reliable high-speed internet.

Internet speed sometimes impedes business at Piedmont Power in Orange County.

“Very slow and really not a lot choices,” owner Jack Rickett said. “If it's a tough weather season, we'll have in and out in and out type of service.”

Rickett awaits the day the World Wide Web flows freely, and fast, into his outdoor equipment showroom on Route 15.

“You work around what you have to work with and that's pretty much what we're doing and what we've been doing,” Rickett said.

That will soon change thanks to Orange County Public Schools. The school system is partnering with the county to build a broadband network. Thirty-three miles of buried fiber will connect every school to high-speed internet.

“They'll be able to connect back here to the central office via a 10-gig link,” Darell Hatfield, OCPS director of technology,” said.

The broadband backbone will run along Routes 15 and 20, and branch off from there.

“Orange is a very under-served area when it comes to internet connectivity. This will allow them the backbone and the ability now to come off the backbone and get the internet to our citizens,” Hatfield said.

The schools fiber project is part of a long-term rural broadband initiative. The county is developing a wired and wireless network to offer broadband access to more homes and businesses.

“We hope to not only make direct use of that fiber, but to attach towers to it for our public safety radio system as well as have a wireless broadband feature to reach those areas of the county,” Jim White, Orange County Broadband Authority chairman, said.

The county hopes high-speed internet serves as the gateway to attract new businesses and create a better quality of life.

“We're pretty confident we're on the right path of getting the infrastructure in place, and then it's just whatever the mind can be creative about how to apply that technology,” Bryan David, Orange County administrator, said.

A federal grant is covering most of the cost of the schools fiber project. It should be up and running by the start of the school year in 2018.

The county expects to open it up to the public in about two years.