Culpeper County is inching nearer to finalizing a contract with All Points Broadband in a deal that would bring wireless internet connections to 3,800 of the locality's 4,200 unserved locations.
All Points Broadband’s proposal seeks $3.8 million to install wireless equipment in an attempt to provide a short-term solution to lacking connections, an issue highlighted during the rise of remote working and learning amid the coronavirus pandemic. After months of negotiations and contract revisions, the public works committee - consisting of supervisors Jack Frazier, Tom Underwood and Paul Bates - on Feb. 23 unanimously recommended the deal be approved.
Jimmy Carr, All Points Broadband's CEO, explained wireless connections would be provided via about 10 macro sites installed on existing towers. Micro sites would be installed on utility poles, which he said should not be much taller than existing poles. Micro sites locations will be determined based on service gaps remaining after the macro sites are launched.
If the county approves the contract, All Points Broadband would begin deploying equipment within 30 days.
At this point, Frazier said the supervisors need to move forward and decide whether to fund the project.
"Are we down with it? I'm not sure," he said.
A new addition to the contract is the "cumulative remedies" clause, which states that "no remedy or election hereunder shall be deemed exclusive but shall, wherever possible, be cumulative with all other remedies at law in equity under Virginia law." Bates was glad to see the addition, saying he could not have agreed to a contract that does not provide a course of action should something go awry.
The contract stipulates that All Points Broadband would operate the wireless network for three years, with the possibility of the county extending it for two additional years.
That five-year period, Carr said, should provide the company enough time to provide much more stable fiber to home connections to all unserved locations. This, he added, is the ultimate goal of the relationship between All Points Broadband and the county.
Carr said All Points Broadband is currently working with Dominion on the fiber to home project, which will need the state corporation commission's stamp of approval.
This project may take up to five years to complete, but Carr explained it should be a smooth transition for the 3,800 locations served by the short-term wireless connections. This fiber to home project would include private investments from All Points Broadband, Dominion and hopefully others, Carr said. The company would also work alongside the county to receive federal and state grants, which may require up to a 10% local match.
Costs, Carr said, will not be determined until a design is complete. He added that the supervisors will eventually have "a menu" of different options from which to select. Frazier noted that the cost is important, "but I guess that's another step down the road."
The supervisors will vote on the short-term wireless contract at its March meeting.