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Hanover’s countywide broadband project delayed

Herzberg listens with hands on his chin
Shaban Athuman
/
VPM News
Hanover County Board fo Supervisor Vice Chair F. Michael Herzberg IV listens during a Board of Supervisor meeting on Wednesday, May 22, 2024 at Hanover County Administration Building in Hanover County, Virginia.

Connect Hanover is expected to be completed by 2025. 

Hanover County embarked on a mission to provide internet access to over 6,000 homes back in 2021. Although the Connect Hanover project has made progress, there have also been delays.

The Board of Supervisors and Kevin Nelson, the county’s IT director, met with internet service providers and contractors on June 26 to discuss next steps. Nelson said the county won’t meet its initial goal of providing internet connectivity to all residents by August, but the project continues to move forward.

“We’ve sat down with our partners and we continue to learn and to get educated on their constraints,” Nelson said, adding that receiving zoning permissions and the installation of some utility poles are slowing the process. “We’ve started to see a lot more positivity coming from them.”

Connect Hanover began as a $55-million plan to install over 500 miles of fiber optic wiring in areas of the county without internet access. Hanover enlisted the help of several contractors and internet service providers in order to meet the goal. Partners like Dominion Energy, Rappahannock Electric, Comcast, Brightspeed, All Points and others were able to map out areas where they’d be able to connect Hanover residents.

A majority of the funding for the project comes from a combination of American Rescue Plan reserves, private investments and a roughly $14-million state Department of Housing and Community Development grant.

Work by All Points, a Virginia-based internet provider, was primarily funded by the DHCD grant. However, the DHCD funds were contingent on Hanover meeting a set of deadlines which, according to Nelson, the county’s trajectory would have missed.

“That initial grant was to be completed in August of 2024,” Nelson said. “So, based on having better information, and not ‘We hopes’ and ‘We think’ statements, we were able to enter into a revised agreement.”

Nelson said the county was able to secure its funding from DHCD by applying for an extension, as well as submitting a corrective action plan that pushes the deadline to December 2025.

During the board’s meeting with its partners, Nelson assured them that the county remains committed to completing the project.

Several of Hanover’s broadband providers are nearing the point of being able to provide internet service in new areas of the county. That includes Dominion Energy, which is responsible for installing 3,000 miles of fiber optic cable along existing electric distribution infrastructure.

Dominion is also responsible for reviewing pole attachment applications for Hanover’s various internet partners. Each necessary attachment has either been approved or submitted to the county for review, according to a Dominion spokesperson.

Michael Herzberg, vice chair of the board, said he’s seen the project progress while driving down Route 360.

“I’ve been kind of watching the contractors work, seeing where they're working, and over the last few months, they’ve worked very diligently,” Herzberg said. “As far as I can see, they’re making progress.”

Although the recent presentation wasn’t what residents hoped for, as County Administrator John Budesky said, it’s up to the county to deliver on what it promised.

“Our citizens have been waiting and deserve these connections,” he said. “At this point, because we have the extension, there [are] no further opportunities beyond this. We have to deliver for our residents.”

Lyndon German covers Henrico and Hanover counties for VPM News.
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