Connecting the Underserved in Albemarle County

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Seven Shentel cell sites now dot Albemarle County, Virginia, bringing broadband access to the underserved, reports The Daily Progress. Using funds available through CARES, the Albemarle County Broadband Authority has partnered with Shentel to bring its Beam Internet fixed wireless service to 3,000 new households. 

“We are only targeting underserved homes, households that don’t have access to traditional cable modem service or fiber to the home, and obviously we’re only targeting underserved homes with a reasonable chance of getting the Beam signal,” said Shentel VP of Wireless Development, Dan Meenan. 

“Five of the seven sites that we attached to in the county were developed before the current wireless policy,” continued Meenan, “So they’re comparatively much taller structures, oftentimes with high elevation to start, like the Advance Mills tower, like the Airport tower there off of [U.S. Route] 29. The Crozet tower and the Scottsville tower were a bit atypical. Typically, we can’t get enough underserved homes passed with shorter towers to justify the cost.”  

Shentel was able to incorporate existing towers when attaching its equipment, making the project relatively quick and easy to kickstart. The telecom responded to a 2020 RFP initiated by the Albemarle County Broadband Authority and used the $697,194 of CARES CRF money to help establish service at six of the seven cell sites. 

Residents within the service area are encouraged to visit the Beam website to review their coverage options. A technician will then visit the eligible household to perform a signal test and help assess where to place the house’s antenna. Meenan says four other locations look like likely candidates for Beam service, and he expressed his determination to bring broadband connections to even more people.  

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