RiverStreet provides information on the introduction of the Internet in Bedford County

BEDFORD — RiverStreet Networks, one of the broadband providers working to bring Internet service to unserved and underserved areas of Bedford County with a grant from the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI), provided a progress update to the County Board of Supervisors this week placed.

Robert Taylor, RiverStreet’s director of business development and government affairs, said the preliminary design for the district has been completed and the company is in the process of acquiring additional land to build on. According to the company, approximately 2,253 Bedford County locations have been identified within the VATI-supported area.

Fifteen percent of the roughly 198 VATI-funded miles of RiverStreet’s coverage area in the county have been staked out – meaning work areas have been marked – though the company is still figuring out whether to bury fiber optic installations or opt for aerial installations on poles. While the company prefers to bury fiber optics to reduce the chance of damage, environmental factors like railroad crossings or rivers require it to be installed on antenna towers, Taylor said.

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Although RiverStreet has been in contact with the Virginia Department of Transportation to obtain the necessary right-of-way permits and easement applications related to fiber optic installations, Taylor said none of the permits were actually applied for due to the early stage of the overall project.

Once construction begins, the company estimates that it will take approximately two years to complete the project. The hope is to have nine to 10 homes per mile in rural areas with the Internet when all is said and done, Taylor said. Once the fiber installations are complete, the company can start connecting customers.

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District 2 Supervisor and Board Chairman Edgar Tuck, in whose district RiverStreet operates more heavily, Monday asked questions about the long time frame Riverstreet has been operating on.

Three years ago, he said, RiverStreet in Huddleston held a community announcement telling residents in the area that their part of the broadband project would be complete in six years.

“The public was told at the time that you would be done in six years. We burned three. It’s been 12 months since the award for VATI, for this one. You’re basically telling me you’re going to start in a year, and then it’ll be another two years. That brings you to the end of the original six years that we announced to the public three years ago,” Tuck said. “Fifteen percent doesn’t excite me.”

Tuck added he’s concerned the company hasn’t followed up on any of the VDOT approvals, as that process could take a while.

Taylor said it was mainly legal issues surrounding a separate loan for non-VATI broad work that tied the company down for a while. The company is involved in broadband projects outside of the VATI grant project and had sought other sources of funding for them, including the loan, which the company said was becoming problematic. The problems have now been resolved, Taylor said, and the VATI project is making progress.

The RiverStreet VATI area is still expected to be completed by the end of the original six-year plan, the company said.

RiverStreet asked interested potential customers in their service area to register on RiverStreet’s website, myriverstreet.net, or to call the company to be notified when service is available.

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