Craig County, Virginia and the surrounding region is steeped in early American history. And now, thanks to the Craig-Botetourt Rural Electric Cooperative (CBEC), this corner of southwest rural Virginia has established a forward-looking outpost of Internet connectivity with the launch of a new Fiber-to-the-Home network. The first subscribers in Botetourt County already have the Bee Online Advantage as the co-op hopes to expand its high-speed offering across the seven counties in its 650 square-mile service area.
Five months after launch, the Olneyville free public Wi-Fi network has proven its value and nonprofit One Neighborhood Builders (ONB) is ready to bring the network into its next phase of life. The next few months will be packed for ONB as it gears up to strengthen Phase I of the network, plans the expansion of a Phase II, and puts boots on the ground to energize the information campaign around the network. The nonprofit has been answering a flood of information requests from folks throughout the region considering bringing a similar mesh network to their own communities, and in response, it will also be putting together a case study for communities who might be interested in replicating its success.
There's been an explosion of federal dollars devoted to helping expand high-speed Internet access. This guide offers an overview of the different funding opportunities for communities interested in expanding broadband services. As application deadlines vary in some cases and other money must be spent within certain time frames, it is critical for states, municipalities, community organizations, and Tribal governments to start planning initiatives now.
The recently reintroduced Affordable, Accessible Internet for All (AAIA) Act would be a game changer. The bill includes funding and dedicated support to address barriers that prevent millions of Americans from having access to affordable, high-speed Internet connectivity. It backs measures that would encourage pricing transparency, promote Internet adoption and digital literacy initiatives, guarantee affordability, and protect the rights of workers who would build the networks. It also makes input from local, state and Tribal governments a central component of future infrastructure and overturn state preemption laws which prevent communities from building publicly owned networks.