In 2007, then-Supervisor Carl Schmitt pointed to Greene’s lack of access to broadband; then, nothing. Ten years later, in 2017, broadband access was finally “identified as a high priority.” A Broadband Committee was formed, a survey was performed and then nothing. Three years later (the time it takes here “to get all the ducks in a row”), a grant application was submitted (to cover 320 households) and denied.
In the meantime, The Daily Progress dutifully reports on what other counties are doing: “Broadband coming to more of rural Albemarle,” “In Fluvanna, Northam lauds effort to expand broadband,” “Pittsylvania County broadband access improving,” “Fauquier supervisors back ambitious broadband incentive plan,” “Culpeper, Madison and Orange counties to install an 18-mile fiber line along Route 15.” The Greene County Record has obviously no progress to report on, and Greene County remains “a virtual dead zone” (Terry Beigie, Record Editor).
Responses I received over the last 10 years from our past and current officials range from “I understand the frustration” to “you should have known;” from “this is always the middle-to-last-mile issue” to “be aware that I work a full time job in addition to my service on the board.” Such non-responses make me think of the classic saying: “If it’s important to you, you will find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.”
So, what does all this tell us? Do we have the right team in charge? Do we have the right plan to make it happen? How many years will it take to cover the 6,000 households in need of broadband, a few-hundreds at a time, if and when grants are successful?
Interestingly enough, just south of the border, USDA Rural Development has allocated, in December 2019, $7.9 million from the Reconnect Program to unserved areas of Columbus County, N.C., and the service area will include 4,057 households, 18 business, 22 farms, etc., spread over 150 square miles. Just the size of Greene County: 156 square miles. Think about it! I can already hear “shovel ready” excuses, see classic sayings above, such as “situations are not similar, you cannot compare this and that,” but the fact of the matter is that our officials cannot even give their constituents an illusion of two steps forward, one step back.
Others get connected through a USDA program, we are not. But we, as county, are the proud owners of a decrepit brick house, slated to become a visitor center, financed through another USDA program. This tells me that our priorities are not right and that our officials are not serious about broadband.