A 2017 RiverStreet Networks broadband feasibility study included options for expanding broadband access across Warren County costing in the millions of dollars and taking up to 15 years to install. However, discussion during the July 1 Warren County Board of Commissioners’ meeting brought a more optimistic outlook that grants and partnerships could allow expansion in a more cost effective and timely manner.
Speaking before the county commissioners was Joe Freddoso of Mighty River LLC, a broadband technology advisement company based in Wake Forest.
On Friday, County Manager Vincent Jones told the newspaper that he approached Freddoso because county commissioners wanted to explore options for making broadband internet accessible throughout the county. However, the cost for plans suggested by the 2017 feasibility study, which ranged between $8 and $38 million, meant that the project was not realistic for the county at the time.
Jones said that in efforts to find a way to help the broadband project move forward, he sought information from the Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments about its efforts to expand broadband access in Franklin, Granville and Vance counties with Freddoso providing advising services.
Jones said that he contacted Freddoso about how Warren County could piggyback on the Kerr-Tar project or find a more cost effective means to expand broadband internet access here. He added that Freddoso’s partnership with an outside foundation would cover Mighty River, LLC’s advisement services to Warren County, making the company an attractive option for commissioners to consider.
During the July 1 meeting, Freddoso told county commissioners that making broadband internet service accessible for people of rural areas has been a longtime concern for him because he is a native of Nash County, with many residents living outside more metropolitan regions of the county.
He said that he focused on finding ways to utilize existing county resources to help areas improve their internet capabilities and had recently advised Vance County in the process of contracting with a broadband company.
Freddoso said that, after reviewing Warren County’s 2017 broadband study, he suggested that the county contact the service provider that installed the broadband network for Warren County Schools extending from a hub in Warrenton to schools across the county. He described the possibility that the service provider could lease unused portions of the existing fiberoptic network to serve as the backbone of a county system.
Freddoso also recommended that Warren County seek information from the N.C. Department of Information Technology’s Broadband Infrastructure Office to apply for the next round of Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology grant funding available to economically disadvantaged counties.
In 2018, county government was leaning toward a broadband option that would involve use of 17 wireless antennas throughout the county at a cost of $12 million over a three-year period that could bring broadband access to 10,000 residences, or almost all of Warren County. It was noted at the time that the cost to the county would be $8 million with RiverStreet Networks covering the remaining $4 million.
Jones told the newspaper that he is optimistic about Freddoso’s suggestions, noting that the 2017 broadband study did not take into consideration the school system’s fiberoptic network already in place.
Jones said that Freddoso will continue to work with county officials as they pursue the suggestions he raised, that the previous broadband study may need to be updated, and that the county would follow a competitive request for proposal process in efforts to seek the most cost effective plans for expand access here.
Freddoso suggested that Warren County follow a revised timeline utilized by the Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments that runs through January 2020. The timeline begins with exploring policy and funding options and studying the existing broadband survey, continues with creating RFPs that leverage Warren County’s existing broadband resources, and concludes with recommendations that could be available as early as December.