By MIKE WILLIAMS
The Pulaski County Board of Supervisors last week received an update on the Pulaski Network – the fully-funded, $60 million universal fiber broadband project between the county and All Points Broadband.
Jimmy Carr, Chief Executive Officer of All Points Broadband told the supervisors, “Pulaski County is going to be in the first wave of counties in Virginia that achieve universal broadband, and you’re not doing it with any old technology. We’re doing it with fiber to the home using XGS PON technology and that means we’re doing it in a future proof way.”
Carr lauded County Administrator Jonathan Sweet and the county’s “team” involved with the project.
“Jonathan and his team have been focused on broadband, we’d like to say, before that was cool. He has been working with All Points on improving broadband since he first came here several years ago,” he said.
Carr told the supervisors, “It’s no surprise to you all that people are very hungry for better broadband as soon as possible, and 10 percent of eligible locations have already contacted us to begin the signup process.”
That 10 percent represents some 800 county residents who have pre-registered for broadband service out of over 7,800 currently unserved locations in the county.
“Our No. 1 priority is to extend the network to as many locations as possible. That is our priority,” Carr said.
Carr announced last week that All Points has agreed to offer a $30 per month discount in broadband service pricing to any location in Pulaski County that qualifies for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).
ACP is a program through the Federal Communication Commission that is funded by $14.2 billion in federal funds through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed by President Biden in November.
The $30 discount is available to any household in Pulaski County that has a dependent receiving free or reduced-price school lunches or who meet certain household income levels. For instance, a family of five with a household income of $62,080 or less would also qualify. Pulaski’s median household income, Carr noted, is $53,866.
Carr provided All Point’s expected service levels and pricing which include:
-50 x 50 Mbps – $59.99 (Undiscounted pricing) and $29.99 (ACP pricing)
-100 x 100 Mbps – $79.99 and $49.99
-500 x 500 Mbps – $99.99 and $69.99
-1000 x 1000 Mbps – $109.99 and $89.99
Carr explained that 50 Mbps (megabytes per second) is enough internet speed to “simultaneously stream 10 high-definition videos at the same time with no buffering.”
“It’s a very robust internet connection on an XGS PON fiber network that is the gold standard anywhere,” Carr told the supervisors.
Carr invited residents to visit fiber.allpointsbroadband.com to confirm whether their location is included in the project and to pre-register for service.
Carr said there are all sorts of bureaucrat hurdles to get over in the days ahead before the actual construction of the project can begin. However, he said All Points had secured allocations of the supply it needs of all the key components to be used for the project. He said manufacturers are committed to pricing and to deliver components over an extended period of time.
He said if things go well with all the bureaucratic hurdles, “make-ready” construction on the project – “the time when you see guys in the field with vests and hard hats” – will begin six months after final approval of the project is granted by the state.
Carr said All Points projects that the Pulaski Network project will be substantially completed within 18 months. “And we’ll be trying to move that up,” he said.
Carr said All Points will also be opening a regional office in Pulaski to support the rollout of the network.
“We’ve come a super long way, but we do have a long way yet to go,” Carr stated. “We will be transparent with you all throughout the process. The fantastic news is that we will have a universal fiber network that is now fully funded.”
Carr said it is possible the project could be completed by the end of 2023.
“If everything goes well. We can meet that, but there are all kinds of third parties involved in this,” he added.
During Carr’s presentation, he noted Pulaski County had last summer committed a local match of $2.2 million to the project. But, he noted, that required amount had recently dropped to just $2 million.
Sweet reminded the supervisors that Pulaski County will have “no direct investment” of county funds in the project as the local match is coming from federal ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds.
Sweet praised All Points’ work and planning on the project, along with the Board of Supervisors.
“All this is possible because this board has prioritized and made it very clear in so many ways of how important it is to provide broadband services to our citizens,” Sweet said.
He termed universal broadband as “basic infrastructure in the 21st Century.”
Sweet said the board’s three priorities included the number of citizens served, cost and affordability and the need for the service “sooner rather than later, not in two years, but two years ago.”
Sweet said All Points had put together a solution that accomplishes “every single objective set forth.”
“This is really one of those perfect examples of a public – private partnership that I couldn’t be more pleased to work with,” Sweet stated.
“This is the way it should be done,” Carr concurred in closing.