Prioritizing BOCO Broadband Connections
If you have questions about Broadband in Botetourt County, please contact Botetourt County Administrator Gary Larrowe at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 540-928-2006.
Botetourt County is actively working to improve broadband connectivity throughout the community. While there is still much work to do, over the last four years, the County has secured over $2 million in Virginia Telecommunications Initiative grant funds, $569,808 in CARES Act Fast Track Grant funds, and attracted multiple new broadband providers to the area.
In addition, in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Botetourt County leveraged nearly half of allotted CARES Act funding, approximately $3 million, to advance broadband projects. In addition to allowing for directed partnerships with private Internet Service Providers (ISPs), these efforts have helped an additional 1,948 local addresses to gain access to high-speed internet connections.
“Broadband is top of mind for our entire community. During these challenging times, access and affordability are more critical considerations than ever before, but we’re making the right moves and starting to really reap the rewards. I’d like to personally thank everyone in the community for their patience and support as we all continue to work together to address this important priority effort.”
County Administrator Gary Larrowe
In 2017, Botetourt County leadership identified a need for improved broadband connectivity for communities throughout the County. They commissioned a local third-party citizen and business survey to examine the issue in greater detail. The study found that about 70% of homes in Botetourt had high speed broadband access.
To take action on the findings of this report, Botetourt County formed a Citizens Broadband Advisory Board. Led by Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Dr. Mac Scothorn, and appointed by the Board, the Broadband Commission was the first such commission in the Roanoke Valley to bring together local government leaders and interested citizens together to tackle broadband deployment in a locality. Comprised of individuals from diverse backgrounds, Botetourt County has used this commission to commit to study, track, prioritize and take continuous action on local broadband challenges.
One of their first strategic actions was to plan an in-person Botetourt Broadband Summit. The event was held in September of 2018 and allowed the community to host subject matter experts from across the country. The goal was to envision solutions to help Botetourt address the local connectivity challenges, and the unique geographic and typographic obstacles that stand between the current status and reliable, affordable, high-speed access for every local resident and business.
The completion of funded projects will help the county ensure that 85% of local homes have high-speed broadband access. It’s not everyone, yet, but we are continuing to work with partners to identify areas of need and to direct public resources to incentivize local partners to invest in areas where reliable, high-speed service is still needed.
Chairman of the Board of Supervisors and Valley District Supervisor Mac Scothorn
While Botetourt County does not directly build or operate telecommunications infrastructure, the local government has prioritized this issue and allocated significant resources and staff time to this issue. County staff and the citizen advisory board are all working closely with existing service providers as well as recruiting new internet service providers to the area. Local leaders continue to track and incentivizing development in areas that need coverage the most.
In 2019, the county commissioned a strategic plan focused on improving internet access, speed, and reliability county-wide. This report has helped guide strategic decisions, grant applications, and county efforts ever since.
Botetourt Broadband Progress
As the modern landscape continues to shift, and the 2020 pandemic forced citizens to reply on at-home learning, remote work arrangements, telemedicine, and more, equal access to reliable, high-speed internet has become even more imperative.
Working together with private industry and public-private organizations, the county has taken a number of significant steps to advance connectivity. While there is still much to be done, working together the community has made great strides and has been widely recognized for their data driven approach to addressing one of the largest rural challenges of our time.
In August of 2020, the Virginia Association of Counties awarded Botetourt County the VaCo Achievement Awards for Broadband Strategy. While addressing the need to proliferate broadband access rural regions is a significant national concern, Botetourt County officials aren’t sitting back waiting for solutions, they are working hard to bring technological advancements to the residents of Botetourt County as quickly as possible.
“Rural broadband deployment is one of the most difficult challenges of our era. Botetourt has been a shining example of how systematic progress leads to measurable impact and community benefit.”
Chris McDonald from VACo
Recent Infrastructure and Funding Advancements
In April 2019, Governor Northam announced that the Botetourt County and Craig Botetourt Electic Co-op (CBEC) were the recipients of a VATI Grant from Virginia’s Department of House and Community Development. The competitive grant provided nearly $760,000 for building fiber-to-the-home for 621 homes and 52 businesses, covering one third of CBEC’s members in western and southern Botetourt County. The County provided partial matching funds to support the project and to help ensure some of the least connected areas of the County would start having access to broadband.
In June 2020, CBEC mobilized equipment and ordered the fiber to begin building out this project.
In 2020, the work of the Broadband Commission became more vital than ever as Botetourt’s workforce and students, along with much of the world, continued work online under quarantine through much of 2020 and into 2021.
To support the increased demand on county internet infrastructure, existing local providers like the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority and Lumos, and new providers like Lit Communities and CBEC all worked with the Commission to rapidly expand local infrastructure.
The County leveraged approximately $3 million in federal CARES Act funding to help deploy broadband to the community, and County leaders and the Broadband Commission engaged state and federal officials in order to determine the best approach to using this money in a meaningful way for broadband deployment.
- Botetourt County provided the BoCo School System CARES resources In the amount of $158,000 to purchase 534 Chromebooks that allowed the school system to supply all 5-12 grade students Chromebooks to enhance the virtual learning environment for the students and teachers alike.
In October 2020, Dominion Energy Virginia also announced a rural broadband pilot with the support of the Virginia General Assembly extending broadband internet to citizens in Botetourt County and two other Virginia communities. The three proposed pilot projects are the first the company has brought forward under the Grid Transformation & Security Act of 2018 and legislation patroned by Del. Israel O’Quinn in 2019. They also align with Governor Northam’s $85 million proposal to expand access to broadband for unserved communities. Dominion Energy installed 34 miles of middle-mile fiber infrastructure, partnering with BARC Electric Cooperative and their BARD Connects ISP.
In December 2020, Botetourt County received a $805,604 Fast-Track Broadband Grant from the Commonwealth of Virginia to help increase broadband accessibility to underserved citizens in the community. This latest grant specifically provides Botetourt with a secondary Internet feed to the Craig-Botetourt Electric Cooperative (CBEC) and to homes and business along the way. The 4.35 mile section of buried fiber from the Intersection of Etzler Road and Blacksburg Road to Catawba Road to the CBEC connection near the Roanoke Cement production facility. This routing augments the CBEC fiber to the home build with a diverse route and allows the entire Broadband buildout In Botetourt to be more robust.
Botetourt County is working with the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority on this important effort.
In January 2021, Governor Northam announced that Botetourt County and Lumos Networks were the recipients of another local VATI Grant from Virginia’s Department of House and Community Development. The competitive grant is set to provide $1,364,337 for building a 59-mile fiber broadband network service extension to 548 unserved addresses including 30 businesses east of the Town of Fincastle and west/southwest of the Town of Buchanan including the Lithia, Springwood, and Wheatland communities of Botetourt County.
The County provided partial matching funds to support the project and help ensure some of the least connected areas of the County will start having access to broadband. In fall of 2020, Botetourt County celebrated Broadband Week to help keep attention on both the progress made and the steps still needed.
Preliminary goals indicate that many addresses will have access to the new fiber service later 2021 and the remainder by mid-year 2022. Lumos will send a notice to residents when construction begins in their area.
“There aren’t many rural communities like ours that have been able to leverage this newer technology yet. So it’s exciting. We’re expecting to have some additional service options for some members of our community as soon as this coming spring. In the meantime, we are continuing push hard to reach 100% county-wide broadband connectivity with reliable service options and speed offerings of at least 25 Mbps download and 3Mbps upload for everyone.”
County Administrator Gary Larrowe
Maps and other information contained on this site is a combination of many sources of corporate and public information which is as accurate as possible as of the publishing date. As known conditions change, the site will be updated as needed.
Please contact the providers of broadband first as a way to determine if your location may be served by a specific provider.