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BIT debuts high-speed service in Bracey area / October 10, 2018

Buggs Island Telephone has rolled out high-speed internet service to 100 customers in the Bracey area through the use of fiber optic cable, news that was shared with the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors by BIT general manager Michele Taylor on Monday.

David Herbstreit, one of the recipients of the new service, stated in a letter to the Board that “I’m now able to view my streaming media without frequent buffering and the quality of the image is even better than ever. Everything loads faster, runs faster, and I have less frustration with my equipment.”

Spotty broadband access in the county has been an ongoing issue for supervisors, who agreed Monday to serve as a local sponsor of the project.

“The issue of rural telecommunication is not only one of technology, it is essential infrastructure for modern community and economic development,” Taylor explained before asking board members to sign on as a partner to BIT’s plan to pursue an additional $256,938 in grant funding from the Department of Housing and Community Development’s Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI). If awarded, the grant money will be used to expand Bracey broadband service.

The primary objective of VATI, Taylor said, “is to provide financial assistance to supplement construction costs by private sector broadband service providers in partnership with local government to extend services to area that presently are unserved.” BIT hopes to use the grant to install networks and equipment for last-mile internet service for 102 people living in the Long Branch subdivision of Bracey.

Taylor said these residents — who live on Clary Lane, Long Branch Drive, Brookstone Drive and Oak Court — currently receive DSL service through BIT, and nearly half of them have service with speeds of less than 10 Mbps. Once service installation is completed, Taylor said these same homes will have broadband speeds up to 200 Mbps and higher.

BIT plans to contribute $51,388 in matching funds to the project.

Speaking in support of BIT’s broadband plans, Bracey resident Melissa Hartman told supervisors that several people living in her subdivision telecommute or have home-based businesses and BIT’s highspeed broadband will benefit them. She said broadband availability supports the creation of sustainable, and competitive communities, provides access to healthcare through telemedicine and provides access to educational opportunities through distance learning.

Hartman said she completed a portion of her doctoral studies using distance learning. High-speed internet serves an entrepreneurial economy where home-based and small businesses can compete globally.

In other business, supervisors agreed to move forward with the purchase of a new radio communication system for police and emergency service providers in the county. The cost of the system, from Tyler Technologies, is $895,625 of which the county’s share is $684,663. The balance of $210,962 will be shared by each of the towns according to need, but they can spread the cost over two years.

Supervisors also received an update on the new school construction project and roofs for the new schools. In an earlier meeting with the joint Education Committee, architect Bill Upton discussed two roofing options — a full metal roof and a combined roof system, part metal and part single-ply sloped roof. The most visible portions of the roof on each building, if a combined roof is installed, would be metal.

He recommended the combined roof, which he said is performing well on buildings constructed in other areas with similar weather patterns. Moreover, the combined roof costs $3 million less than the full metal roof system and comes with a similar 30-year warranty.

County Administrator Wayne Carter said he spoke with officials in Warren County, N.C. which has buildings with the combined roof system. Carter said they were “pleased with the roof material and it worked very well.”

Claudia Lundy expressed her dislike of the combined roof, asking the architects to reconsider and install full metal roofs on each of the buildings. Upton had said these roofs, which would rise 40 feet, would impact the aesthetics of the building — as would the installation of low slope roof on the entire structure.

Several supervisors shared concerns about the ability of the low-slope roof to channel away water without it leaking into the building. They were assured the design includes enough slope and roof drains to disperse excess water into drains running from the roofs.

While discussing the schools, but without taking any action, Carter and Supervisor Jim Jennings reiterated their desire to have a full-time construction manager on the building project. Superintendent of Schools Paul Nichols said a “clerk of the works” will always be on-site. He also assured supervisors that the division’s head of maintenance, Brian Dalton, was already developing a maintenance schedule for the new building to avoid the disrepairs that developed in the existing facilities.

Nichols thanked BIT for its work bringing high-speed broadband service to homes in eastern Mecklenburg County.

He said the lack of internet service, and broadband service hurts students in the county. The example he gave involved missed school due to weather emergencies.

The Virginia Department of Education is offering virtual make-up days to students living in the Virginia Beach area. By contrast, Mecklenburg County does not qualify for this program because homes in the county “do not have sufficient high-speed access,” said Nichols. Projects like BIT’s fiber to the home, Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative’s Empower Broadband and work being done by Mid-Atlantic Broadband and Microsoft, will mean that students in Mecklenburg will never have to miss educational time, even if the schools are closed, according to Nichols.

Nichols also said he continues to work with Microsoft on various education programs the company would like to see implemented once the new school is constructed. The focus will be on sustainable energy projects such as solar power, and wind turbines.

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