Joe Domino | Internet 1

Western Loudoun resident Joe Domino relies on broadband service when he is working at home. He is one of the moderators for a Facebook page called True Broadband for Western Loudoun.

Western Loudoun resident Joe Domino says he has invested at least $750 in hopes of having reliable broadband service.

He also pays around $100 a month only to get lower download speeds than his neighbors in eastern Loudoun. As someone who often works from home, Domino is desperate for more reliable service.

"We have to pay a lot of money for really slow speed,” Domino said. “It's hard to run a business out here. My work Internet drops off occasionally … The Internet is just not really reliable out here. It's too expensive. Improving it would just really bring us up to par with the rest of the county.”

Loudoun County officials have heard this sentiment for more than a decade, and earlier this month supervisors responded by agreeing to spend $15.5 million over the next 10 years toward improved connectivity.

The county plans to build a middle mile fiber network to key county facilities. In the broadband Internet industry, the "middle mile" is the segment of a telecommunications network linking a network operator's core network to the local network plant. The county's plans call for a private third-party entity to eventually own and operate the network. Providers would then be able to connect to the middle mile network and offer better service to unserved and underserved residents.

For major providers like Verizon and AT&T, the cost to extend broadband services to rural areas has been cost-prohibitive. Loudoun’s middle mile network plan is expected to cut those costs.

Blue Ridge Supervisor Tony Buffington (R), who represents many western Loudoun citizens with Internet concerns, offered the motion Dec. 3. It passed unanimously.

“This is a huge step for Loudoun County towards meeting one of our major goals of expanding broadband through our underserved areas, which especially is in western Loudoun,” Buffington said.

Supervisors believe building a fiber network from county facilities to incentivize providers to build connections for residents will provide more options and improved service.

The proposed project would be a first for Loudoun, according to county officials, who describe the county’s role as “an anchor tenant” to lease the fiber.

Dark Fiber Wide Area Network Services | Countywide

Dark Fiber Wide Area Network Services Countywide

The plan was sparked after the Department of Information Technology and Columbia Telecommunications Corporation (CTC) identified potential areas of overlap between the Loudoun County Public Schools’ proposed fiber expansion project, according to county officials. Lumos was the contractor hired by the School Board’s finance committee in February. Shortly thereafter, county staff and Lumos developed a design to connect 110 facilities with dark fiber. Sixty of those buildings are county facilities, including 53 in western Loudoun. They include community centers, libraries, public safety offices and recreational facilities.

Expansion will run from all current county facilities except for five sites not covered by the Lumos contract awarded by LCPS.

Supervisors awarded a $15.5 million contract for dark fiber wide area network services, leveraging the Loudoun County Public Schools Contract, to Lumos from Dec. 1 of this year through March 31, 2029.

County Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) said broadband is a “necessity” for residents and businesses.

“Broadband has become a utility," Randall said. "It's no longer a luxury item. It is something that you have to have if you are going to be able live a healthy life.”

While eastern Loudoun has seen numerous high-profile tech success over the years – from the Internet boom in the 1990s to the Ashburn-Dulles area now known as one of the most significant data center markets in the world – western Loudoun residents have struggled with insufficient Internet access since the web came into existence.

Supervisors in July directed staff to work through the fiscal 2021 budget process to identify funding needs for the deployment of such a network. The board’s finance committee also considered another option – though not recommended – to construct a fiber-to-the-premises, or FTTP, network similar to one in the eastern part of Loudoun. That would cost about $130 million.

Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles), who chairs the board’s finance committee, said earlier this year he believes the idea of building a fiber network has brought on a lot of excitement.

“From the customer’s standpoint and the provider’s standpoint, I think there’s interest in this as a way—with the county backing the effort—to provide a greater level of financial certainty for a private sector entity to enter into this type of agreement and provide better service,” Letourneau said.

Western Loudoun resident Eusebio Cantone, who spoke with the Times-Mirror in September about the expansion project, started a Facebook group, “True Broadband For Western Loudoun,” aimed at increasing awareness for reliable broadband.

Cantone said he’ll continue monitoring the county's efforts to see how providers respond. As for where he thinks the fiber should be laid to start the project, he said wherever it will do the most good.

“I think they need to see what's the best return on that investment, who can it impact, what is the largest number of people that it can impact the fastest. That is where they should go," Cantone said. “Whoever it can help and impact the most, that’s where it should go."

Joe Domino | Internet 2

Western Loudoun resident Joe Domino

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Related: After two decades of resident complaints, Loudoun considering rural Broadband investment

Dark Fiber Wide Area Network Services | Western Loudoun County

Dark Fiber Wide Area Network Services for western Loudoun County.

Dark Fiber Wide Area Network Services | Eastern Loudoun County

Dark Fiber Wide Area Network Services in eastern Loudoun County.

(33) comments

amerigirl

Cowbell, you don't think that saying "No one’s “entitled” to anything, unless of course you’re Illegal." isn't racist? What does that say about you?

Loudounest

Does this mean as taxpayers we will have access to the school property locations for 24x7 network access at something like an internet café? What will be the costs for right of way conduit, fiber installation, terminal equipment, disaster recovery plan, maintenance and overall management of this project? What ISPs have agreed to use the School network to transport their access? Will they all be offered access at the same price? What if no one uses the School network how will the sunk cost be recovered? Probably a good idea to hold on to my ISDN service?

amerigirl

What? Why would you think that taxpayers have access to everything that their money pays for? Should you have unfettered access to the county jail? You can go into schools with ID and a reason to be there but that is not what the county but that facility for. Just like other county facilities if you want to use it after hours, you need permission and, in some instances, must pay to rent it or for maintenance and clean up. You would be charged for trespassing for going into some sections of facilities.

tolerantleft

I just love your ramblings. Great education for my kids.

Loudounest

Great list of why we "can't". Now how about "what if we did" have a taxpayer supported public café. Looking at only the "can't" just means there will be no progress or heaven forbid change! Look at the maps, the end link schools are located in existing franchised cable areas. Assumption the carriers have their own existing backbone network providing this service. Do you really think they would choose to move their existing services to an untested government run network? Why? How does that get broadband down a dirt road outside the cable franchise area? Money would be better spent subsidizing cellular and wifi carriers in western Loudoun the same way they do in other 3rd world countries.

amerigirl

tolerant, maybe you should pay attention too, you could use some educating.

Bud

This plan to spend $15 million OVER 10 YEARS does nothing for residents. Nice if you're in a county facility, but it does not address the "last mile" - getting broadband to homes. County needs some serious action to attract solution providers like high speed wireless. Ask all the datacenter builders to help. Look at Microsoft "Airband" pilots.

Duncan Idaho

If you want to live in the sticks, don't expect the government to help the technology catch up with you.

ace10

If you want to live in a suburb, find your own source of potable water. And figure out how to dispose of your effluent. Don't expect taxpayers for help you with your sanitation.

amerigirl

See AreYouKidding below. Taxpayers don't pay for everything.

amerigirl

It's not west VA

Thebroof

Increase property taxes in western loudoun to pay for the install and maintenance.

ace10

That's a great idea. I look forward to the corresponding reduction in my taxes which funds your water and sewer needs.

AreYouKidding

Your tax dollars don't fund eastern Loudoun's water and sewer needs. Loudoun Water is a separate political subdivision of the state and not a department of the Loudoun County government. It is funded through fees to customers and developer fees.

amerigirl

If they start putting more businesses out there wouldn't it generate alot more taxes?

Bornhere

Amerigirl, I am not going to debate the need for Broadband Service in Western Loudoun nor it's value to students and citizens alike but I do have to question your comment "aren't they still entitled to have the same amenities that were given to us in eastern Loudoun?". Who said anyone is entitled to Broadband Service? It's not a legal requirement such as phone service. Granted it has become a necessity in life but no one has required it by code or ordinance thus making it an entitlement. You also state that "the same amenity that were given to us in Eastern Loudoun" Who "gave" you that amenity? It was not given by Loudoun County Government or at the cost of the taxpayer. In fact that "amenity" was bought and paid for by the developers that built out eastern Loudoun over the past few decades by installing the infrastructure and the cost for that amenity was passed on to the consumers in the price of housing. The Broadband network in eastern Loudoun didn't just appear when the Tech companies moved in, it was built over time and the cost was absorbed by the developers and to some extent by the providers (Verizon) and the cost recovery is garnered from user fees and housing sales. In no case did Loudoun County, the State of Virginia or the Federal Government pony up any money in building that network so nothing was given to you in Eastern Loudoun that you and others in Eastern Loudoun didn't pay for, but it was not paid for by my (or your) tax dollars. Why is it that we think we can move away from the amenities we use and desire and expect the amenities to follow us because we feel entitled.

amerigirl

So, you don’t like the word entitled? I would think that since U.S. federal mandate stipulates that every healthcare facility with received Medicare funding must store patient information electronically that it should mean that to receive that info you must have a means to obtain i, or it is basically pointless. Without it there is a biased inequality in Loudoun. Business can not work as efficiently; medical facilities are limited on operations along with the school systems. It may not be an entitlement by law but that doesn’t mean that ethically they should not be entitled. It’s not like Loudoun won’t make money on the tax revenue that it will receive from the west.

jke

Buying friends with taxpayer dollars is a Randall Buffington hallmark.

amerigirl

Guess who ran using this broadband legislation as part of their platform....Del. Dave LaRock, Blue Ridge Supervisor Tony Buffington, Supervisor Geary Higgins, and Randy Minchew, all republican (as per this paper Oct 3, 2019). Sure you keep thinking that this is a bad idea because you thought it was a Randall idea. Had you known it was republicans backing it would you still have the same opinion?

applicant45554

Seems like there a lot of hypocrisy with people who complain about bloated government yet want it to enter the telco business. Is this something we can trust to capitalism? Several good other points about evolving technologies suggest this a bad thing to leave to Government.

Penguin

"Broadband has become a utility," Randall said. "It's no longer a luxury item. It is something that you have to have if you are going to be able live a healthy life.” Well Phyllis, my kids say this all the time as they are playing Xbox or watching videos. Of course having internet builds a healthy lifestyle!

Doug Glatt

Loudoun County is getting into ISP business. How many county employees will have to manage the network operation center and accounts payable? Will Western Loudoun get monthly bills?

I also have a problem with people moving to an area and then complaining about the lack of services in the area. You knew this when you made the choice to move their.

amerigirl

Whether they moved there or have lived there forever aren't they still entitled to have the same amenities that were given to us in eastern Loudoun? Their kids should have the same advantage in schools to do their work and home to get their homework done.

tolerantleft

No one’s “entitled” to anything, unless of course you’re Illegal.

More Cowbell

You failed logic. Should we put more strip malls, restaurants, shopping centers, malls, apartments, metro out there too so they can have same amenities? Most moved out there to get away from what happened to eastern Loudoun. County should not be wasting taxpayers money. The home owners should complain to the developer.

amerigirl

so many racist, and so smug.

More Cowbell

Everything is racist with you.

SayWhat

You hit the nail on the head. When you choose to buy at west you lose some things. Well water issues, septic maintenance, poor road maintenance and yes internet. Embrace it rather than complain.

ace10

So when you "choose to buy east" for some reason you are entitled to my tax dollars funding your new schools, your new road infrastructure, your potable water system and your sewage system? Hypocrisy much?

AreYouKidding

Although I don't agree with this decision your characterization of it is incorrect. The county is not getting into the ISP business. The county is installing dark fiber some of which will be available for lease by ISPs to utilize as part of their backbone to provide services to western Loudoun.

BobOhneiserEsq

Details, details, details - please. If Loudoun merely subsidizes the main trunks without any leverage to incentivize residential connectivity at cost etc then this "could be" a trojan horse for data centers to expand into western Loudoun on the trunks where the power lines are. Where does Lucketts fit into this plan as it is quite rural with very little attention paid to local roads and few school nearby as well :-)

WesternSky

I think the issue in Western Loudoun is NOT dark fiber long haul -- it wiring neighborhood and homes. $15M over TEN YEARS. Come on.

The money would be better spent by building a bunch cellular towards and giving away to space to space of services that offer unlimited 25 MB+ hispeed data for a fee no higher that cable..

AreYouKidding

After years of doing nothing the county is going to spend $15 million dollars on infrastructure they are crossing their fingers and hoping someone will use to provide better broadband just as the private sector is starting to roll out alternative solutions such as SpaceX's Starlink which is projected to be operational for US customers by then end of 2020.

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