TAZEWELL, Va. — Help is on the way for some residents of Tazewell County who currently have no access to broadband services.

Del. James W. “Will” Morefield and State Sen. Ben Chafin said Monday that just over $2 million has been secured in grant funding from the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission to expand broadband services in Tazewell, Buchanan and Russell counties.

Morefield said about 1,411 households and businesses will be impacted in the three-county area.

The project in Tazewell County will bring wireless broadband service into the Thompson Valley and Cove communities, he said.

“The project will use 18 microsite deployments to provide service into unserved areas at minimal expense,” he said. “Access points will be placed on the main backhaul tower in addition to microsites.”

Morefield said microsites are small sites situated on utility poles to relay coverage and will pick up a signal from the master site at Morris Knob to extend service, which is the main tower that currently serves customers in the Tannersville community.

“This project is capable of extending wireless broadband service to hundreds of homes in the Thompson Valley and Cove communities,” he said. “It is possible to expand cellular services in this coverage area if negotiations with cellular providers is successful.”

“In today’s technology driven society, access to the internet is imperative to economic development, education, and quality of life,” Chafin said. “It is my belief that building out internet access through new projects like these is equal to the need of previous generations building the interstate road system and building out access to electricity.”

Tazewell County Southern District Supervisor Mike Hymes said he is pleased with the announcement.

“We were able to successfully fight for funding for new broadband internet access for my constituents in Southwest Virginia,” he said. “For several years I  have pushed to get wireless internet service to the Thompson Valley and the Cove area of my district .”

Hymes said that about six months ago, the Tazewell  County Wireless Authority in Partnership with a local internet provider approached the county board of supervisors with an idea.

“They explained how they could provide wireless service to the Thompson Valley and the Cove area by using our existing communication tower located on  Morris Knob,” he said. “Our board agreed with their idea and supported their application for funding which would be submitted to the Tobacco Commission to provide the service to the area, which currently has no wireless access. I want to thank the members of the Tazewell Cou-nty Wireless Authority for their creativity and hard work to bring this idea to the point of acquiring funding.”

Hymes also thanked Morefield and Chafin, and said the project would not have been possible without their help.

Morefield said the project in Buchanan and Russell counties will also bring broadband services to homes and businesses, which will in turn “increase opportunities for employment, education and services along these extreme rural communities…”

The project, he said, will entail a fiber-optic build-out of 65.56 total miles from end-to-end.

“This project would bring fiber close to 1,126 structures which are comprised of households, businesses and community facilities,” he said, adding that it will cover some of the most extremely unserved rural areas in those counties.

“(Serving) areas as remote as proposed would not be possible for any local company to finance and adsorb,” Morefield said. “A build-out of this magnitude could only be achieved with grant opportunities to serve these citizens. There are no existing terrestrial broadband services offered within the project area.”

— Contact 

Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com