Broadband Coming to all Pulaski County

Broadband Check PresentationWilliam Paine/The Patriot

Pulaski County Supervisors hold a check for $55 million dollars made out to the ‘People of Pulaski County’ in recognition of the investments made in Pulaski County’s Broadband Deployment Project. From left: Tom Innes (VP All Points Broadband), Tamara Holmes (Director of Office of Broadband for Virginia and DHCD), Kevin Byrd (Executive Director of New River Regional Commission), Vice Chair of Pulaski County Supervisors Dirk Compton, Chairwoman of the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors Laura Walters, Pulaski County Administrator Jonathan Sweet, Pulaski County Supervisor Jeff Reeves and Pulaski County Director of Technology Clay Howett.



The Patriot

A presentation given at the Pulaski County Innovation Center served to update the public on Pulaski County’s Broadband Deployment Project. Once this project is completed, every household in Pulaski County will have access to high-speed internet service.


Providing broadband access to 100% of the citizenry of Pulaski County will be made possible by a public/private partnership forged between county, regional and state agencies and All Points Broadband. Representatives from Pulaski County, the state, and All Points Media came to the meeting with oversized multimillion-dollar checks to illustrate the investments provided by each organization for this project.


In total, more than $55 million will have been invested in order to provide high speed internet to every corner of Pulaski County.


“This has long been a top priority of myself and for the new board members elected in 2019 and started in 2020 and we’re excited to partner with the state and All Points to solve this challenge once and for all,” said Pulaski County Board of Supervisor Chairwoman Laura Walters. “For the Ingles district, as well as other very rural areas of the county, this is a game changer. This will change life as they know it.”


But according to All Points Broadband VP Tom Innes, it didn’t come easy.


“I remember working with (Pulaski Director of Technology) Clay Howlett over Labor Day weekend in 2019 to submit a grant application for the Snowville area and while we weren’t awarded that, we used that data,” Innes recounted. “We made some innovative changes to our process, applied for a CARES Act Grant with much of the same information and were successful in that year.”


But even after those funds were secured, county leaders had to push hard to make sure all of Pulaski County would be covered. Last January, Supervisors Laura Walters and Dirk Compton came to Richmond for a meeting of the Virginia Association of Counties (VACO) to promote their cause. At one point, they found themselves on a Zoom call in State Senator Travis Hackworth’s office.


“We were sitting in this big closet that Travis Hackworth had at VACO and this whole thing was ready to blow up on us,” said Compton.


“It blew up on us,” added Walters.


“Thanks to Jonathan (Pulaski County Administrator), Tom (All Points Broadband) and Kevin of the New River Valley Regional Commission, we all got together in this big closet and not only did we end up putting it all together but we ended up saving $200,000 for the county,” Compton stated. “And instead of serving 95% of our people, we’re serving 100% of our people. So, we doubled down and ended up getting better but it was dicey there for a while there.”


Executive Director of the New River Regional Commission, Kevin Byrd, acted as Coordinator and Fiscal Manager for the Broadband Development Project.


“Solutions in rural broadband are really challenging,” said Byrd. “If it was easy, it would have been done a long time ago. It takes a lot of innovation.”


Much of the innovation involved leveraging the $2 million in Federal CARES Act funds that Pulaski County received for the project.


“We could invest our CARES Act in a variety of different ways,” said County Administrator Jonathan Sweet. “So, the $2 million came from CARES funds and not from our local tax base. We took $2 million of federal money and leveraged it with DHCD funds and we leveraged it with private sector All Points Broadband funds. It took it took $55 million to get this thing done and we brought $2 million to the table.”


“This is the largest public private infrastructure investment in the history of Pulaski County,” added Laura Walters. “This is a big deal. We’re going to be providing service to 8000 of our citizens, our homes, our businesses, and community facilities for reliable internet service. It’s an enormous fiscal project that will span the entirety of the county finally solving the broadband efficiency for unserved homes, businesses and users. Fibre to the home is a once and for all approach to serving our broadband needs.”


Tamara Holmes, Director of the Office of Broadband for the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), brought an oversized check from the state totaling $29,122,000. Holmes describes how the need for broadband access changed with the onset of COVID restrictions.


“In a world that went almost digital overnight, access to broadband became a necessity for participating in everyday life,” Holmes explained. “Suddenly, everything from telehealth to education, to E-commerce and telework required internet access. This put into even starker terms the work that needed to be done to close the digital divide.”


According to Holmes, the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative has been investing in the expansion of ‘last mile’ broadband networks in underserved areas since 2017. Last mile describes the last connection between a provider’s network and the end user, either a home or business. The last mile is generally the most expensive part of the network to build or upgrade.


“To innovate, is to make changes in something that’s already established, to achieve a more desirable outcome,” said All Points Vice President Tom Innes. “As we all know affordable, reliable high-speed broadband was not available to all homes. We empower communities by bringing in utility grade broadband to underserved markets. What we’re doing in Pulaski County is the exact reason we founded our company. So, we’re honored to be your partner and service provider. This network is going to be scalable to 20 gigabits for each location. It’s 10 gigabits down and 10 gigabits up. It’s an investment for the next generation. And this is exactly the kind of investment you need and deserve in Pulaski.”


Innes brought along an oversized check representing the more than $24 million investment that All Points Broadband has dedicated to the project. All Points Broadband is currently in the process of making sure the more than 1000 utility poles, which will be used to carry their fiber, are up to standard. After that, crews will be installing fiber directly to the homes of All Points Broadband customers. According to Innes, customers can find out when their service begins by going the company’s website


Broadband access will be a game changer for Kevin Meredith, who lives and often works from his home in Snowville.


“The best internet performance that I have right now is with a hotspot from my cellphone,” said Meredith. “I’ve been through the options. I’ve been to HughesNet. I’ve been to Verizon. I’ve been through everything and the performance is just spotty. It’s unreliable. This will allow me to do a lot more of my work from Snowville.”


“And I know they didn’t do this so I can watch movies,” Meredith added. “But being able to do that sure boosts our quality of life.”


Whichever broadband service the consumer chooses, broadband customers are encouraged to check their eligibility for a $30 discount on their service by going to the website.


According to time estimates given by All Points Broadband, the project should be completed by December 2024.