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Hanover nearing construction readiness on Connect Hanover

The Hanover County Administration Building is seen under blue skies
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
The Hanover County Administration Building as seen on Aug. 8.

The board of supervisors recently heard an update on the yearslong effort to expand broadband service.

In July 2021, the Hanover County Board of Supervisors partnered with a broadband company called All Points to develop a comprehensive plan to connect county residents to reliable internet service.

Together with county staff, All Points identified thousands of homes disconnected from what Kevin Nelson, the county’s IT director, described as a resource that enhances the quality of life for all residents.

However, since said partnership began, the pace at which the Connect Hanover project has progressed has been slower than anticipated. In the words of Henry District Supervisor Sean Davis, Hanover residents have one question on their minds: “Where’s my internet?”

During the board’s regular meeting on Aug. 23 Nelson, representatives from several internet providers and representatives from power companies described the challenges faced and progress they’ve made over the last 24 months.

“These presentations are to help try and educate everyone on what is a very long process,” Nelson told VPM News. “I know it's slow, it seems very painful slow, and I think we're making great progress and again; construction is about ready to start this fall.”

Connect Hanover began as a $55 million plan with funding secured by the county. A majority of the funding came from the American Rescue Plan Act, along with roughly $14 million from the Virginia Telecommunications Initiatives Grant.

The county developed a partnership between All Points and several internet providers: Comcast, Verizon, GloFiber and Brightspeed. From there, data was gathered and disconnected areas were mapped out.

From there, All Points was contracted to manage the inspection and installation of critical infrastructure throughout the county. It was during this process that the company faced some challenges, according to All Points’ CEO Jimmy Carr.

Carr said the company faced many hurdles before preparing to put over 500 miles of fiber wiring in place as they assessed areas ready to install new above- and below-ground wiring.

“If these trends continue, managing ready equipment will put significant pressure on the project timeline,” Carr said. “All this is happening against a backdrop of unprecedented demand for materials and labor, so everyone recognizes the kind of generational challenge we’re facing.”

County staff are already partnering with energy companies like Dominion Energy and Rappahannock Electric Cooperative to assess these areas as well as identify places that can provide fiber capacity.

These setbacks could see the county fall short of meeting its goal of granting internet access to its underserved residents by early 2024. But as County Administrator John Budesky said, the county is still committed to fulfilling its promises.

“I'd like to be able to give deadlines and dates of actual connections to homes, but we're not in that position to give that today,” Budesky said. “We are committed to getting our residents service. All Points has stepped up to be that end provider for the unserved folks … but I will admit that we all want more.”

Although the county and its partners have met some challenges, Nelson reaffirmed that construction is set to begin later this fall. Residents could see service availability by the end of 2024.

Lyndon German covers Henrico and Hanover counties for VPM News.