Vance County, N.C., Approves Contract with Open Broadband

Vance County Commissioners this week unanimously approved a contract with Open Broadband, in support of economic development, to deploy wireless broadband across the county, a project almost three years in the making.

by Charlotte Wray, Henderson Daily Dispatch / July 3, 2019

(TNS) — Vance County, N.C., residents could see the results of the county’s recently approved agreement with Open Broadband as early as this fall.

On Monday, Vance County Commissioners unanimously approved a contract with Open Broadband, “in support of job creation and economic development,” to deploy wireless broadband across the county, a project almost three years in the making.

Not only will unserved and underserved residents eventually have access to high-speed broadband internet, the entire county will, including residents in the city limits.

Open Broadband will be a service provider with competitive, if not cheaper, rates to incumbent providers, County Manager Jordan McMillen said. Anyone is eligible and customers can pay on a month to month basis.

At a minimum, Open Broadband will provide 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds and guarantee 99.9 percent uptime.

The contract was just approved, but the schedule to get service to residents is swift.

The county and Open Broadband will meet in less than two weeks to begin official planning, map creation for deployment priority and talks about wi-fi hotspot access in select areas across the county.

Engineering and planning will take between 30 and 60 days and the first sector deployment will come 120 days after the planning process is completed.

“This is a really, really big deal for the county,” McMillen said during Monday’s meeting.

Come mid-July, Open Broadband will launch an online portal where people can express their interest. They will deploy service based on what regions of the county show the most interest.

This approval is part of a larger regional effort with Granville and Franklin counties, which began informally in 2016. From 2016-17, a committee of individuals representing Vance County, Vance County Schools, Vance Granville Community College, the City of Henderson, and the Kerr-Tar COG developed a citizen survey to identify the areas most in need of high speed internet or better service.

After receiving the results and forming a cohesive strategy to bring service, in 2018, a Request for Proposals (RFP) was released to potential internet providers.

They received four proposals, which they narrowed down to two and eventually selected Open Broadband, primarily due to a $344,000 grant the company received from state legislators in May through the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology, a program launched by the N.C. General Assembly in 2018. The program subsidizes internet providers who are working with underserved rural communities across the state.

In addition to these grant funds, for deployment over the next four years to residential and business class customers, the county will pay Open Broadband a total $264,000, or $66,000 per year for four years, as an economic development incentive.

The GREAT grant funds will go toward the specific underserved areas outlined in the grant, mainly the Northwest corner of Vance County, while the county's funds will pay for the remaining areas.

In addition to residents and business services, Open Broadband will provide free wi-fi hotspots in a few areas the county selects.

Open Broadband will meet with the county’s Technology Committee July 15 to determine prime areas for these hotspots before settling the additional agreement. McMillen expects this additional agreement to cost the county roughly $36,000.

©2019 Henderson Daily Dispatch, N.C. Distributed by. Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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