By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: August 30, 2018 | 12:35 p.m.
Thought Logic Consulting to aid Dinwiddie, Amelia in broadband internet execution
DINWIDDIE – Both Dinwiddie and Amelia County continue their work toward bringing broadband internet service to more residents and businesses in their communities following their attainment of a nearly $2 million grant from the Commonwealth as a project manager has been named to aid in the execution of key parts of the project.
During their meeting last month, supervisors agreed to work with Thought Logic Consulting, who is tasked with leading the development of a project work plan that would guide the implementation of broadband internet across the two counties as part of a $1.7 million grant from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, known as The Tobacco Commission for short, which is funding a joint venture between the county and nearby Amelia in expanding broadband service to underserved and unserved areas of their communities.
As part of the project, both communities have partnered with StraightUpNet, an internet service provider based in Amelia who has a wealth of experience designing and building state-of-the-art, high-speed networks using a combination of traditional wired and wireless technology.
According to county documents, Thought Logic, who has offices locally in Richmond and in the South in Atlanta, has been tasked with providing a phased plan for locating towers and equipment to best meet the needs of the unserved and underserved areas of both counties, developing a land acquisition plan for tower sites, including zoning and regulatory requirement, along with a co-location plan for existing privately and publicly-owned facilities, along with drafting a grant compliance plan that meets the requirements set forth by the RTTC grant. As part of this “Phase 1” portion of the project, the contract explains the cost “shall not exceed $89,940 without prior written approval of the Counties.”
Along with the plan development, Thought Logic will also oversee the project to ensure that it remains on-time, on-budget, within the parameters of the state grant and ensure that all stakeholders in the project are kept up to speed on the project’s status through proper outreach and messaging.
Over the course of the project, Thought Logic will be the lead in providing regular status reports and updates to the county while making sure all parties involved in the project abide by deadlines and performances metrics that are part of the project and serving as a liaison for the county project management team, comprised of county staff, internet service provider StraightUp Net, and others.
According to The Tobacco Commission at the time of application in last November, “$10 million from the Research & Development Committee budget to assist in the construction of these ‘last mile’ connections” was being made available to communities through this grant program. Those localities applying for grant funding from the pool of $10 million must be expanding service into unserved areas of the commission’s footprint at “speeds of at least 10Mbps, “with preference given to localities applying in conjunction with private-sector partners.”
At that time, Massengill said that private sector partner, like StraightUpNet, “would have to look at the community and make a three-to-five year plan to get broadband to the community, that last-mile connection.”
According to The Tobacco Commission, “This program is designed to provide unserved areas of the Region access to broadband speeds of at least 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps per second upload.”
“Projects proposing higher speeds may receive greater consideration,” the commission’s documents read, “however, the objective is to serve as many project areas as possible, rather than providing superior service to a few areas. In each case, the co-applicant will be required to demonstrate how their proposed technology solution will deliver the promised speeds in the proposed area once operational.”
According to data from the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, just about half of Dinwiddie residents have access to high-speed internet, meaning the other half either have no internet access or can only access speeds below 25mbps.
County Administrator Kevin Massengill explained while they are entering into this contract with Thought Logic to lead the development of a detailed plan, the two counties, the TRRC, and internet service provider StraightUp Net are still working together on an agreement between all of the parties involved.
“Right now, everyone is talking broadband,” Massengill said, referring to such projects as the FirstNet, the nation’s first nationwide public safety broadband network for first responders and Microsoft’s TV white space concept to use that technology to bring internet service to rural areas, among others. “Right now, we have the funding and a company on hand that can help us deliver services to the community. While we have three years to do this, we are being held to certain standards and requirements.”
Shortly after the county received word they had been selected for the grant, Massengill also spoke to why the county opted to partner with Amelia as opposed to applying for the grant on their own.
“Partnering with Amelia County just made sense for this project. We share a border with them and our needs for broadband are similar.” The county administrator continued, “StraightUpNet has successfully demonstrated the ability to implement their service, and has been able to identify areas where efficiencies may be realized, as existing resources are shared across County lines.”
Massengill said the public will be involved as the project continues, with meetings with residents expected as it progresses to garner community feedback and provide information to locals who may have questions about the broadband project.