Roughly 200 frustrated citizens crowded in the warm Battlefield Park Elementary school cafeteria with one common goal: Finding a solution to the high-speed Internet access problem in Hanover County.
Henry District supervisor Sean Davis, who hosted the public forum, said there are two main issues with acquiring high-speed Internet for the whole county.
“Funding is an issue and so is infrastructure,” Davis said.
Like many of the citizens at the forum, Davis lacks high-speed Internet access at his home.
For Internet providers like Comcast, the issue comes down to cost versus profit. Kenneth Dye, Comcast’s director of government affairs, told frustrated Hanover County citizens that it would cost $40,000 per mile to install the communications infrastructure. Dye said there aren’t enough houses close together to make it profitable for their business.
Dye suggested that the most effective solution would be for a community leader, homeowner or developer to gather the necessary funds for the project.
“We don’t not want to serve you all,” he added.
“The challenge is: How do you herd a neighborhood of folks to do one thing? The larger the group, the harder it is,” Dye said.
Resident Kathleen Davis, who is not related to supervisor Sean Davis, announced her frustrations during the public comment portion of the forum. Davis is passionate about the issue. She printed 400 flyers and delivered them to residents around the county inviting them to the meeting.
She said she moved up from Virginia Beach in 2005 and had Internet and no problems. However, that’s not the case for Davis and her family in Hanover.
“Our students are going be falling behind. We are down by 2,000 students in enrollment in one year. People are leaving,” Davis said. She explained that just like cellular service, having Internet is just as important to a community.
“What are we going to do as a county so people will come back?” Davis asked the Henry District supervisor.
The General Assembly passed a law that will require students to take a class online next school year. Citizens are worried that their children will not succeed without the Internet.
Hanover County does not have a competitive contract, so any and all Internet providers are welcome, Sean Davis said. “It’s not the county that is standing in the way of people getting access. We don’t want to hinder anyone,” he added.