On the 4th of July 2020 there was an article recommending a candidate for the Board of the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative. This is in no way intended to either support the candidate, or to turn people away from his candidacy. This is solely in response to the mention of advocacy for Broadband Internet to those in the area who do not currently have high-speed internet service.
While bringing broadband internet to all in Greene and surrounding counties is an admirable goal, the issue is that this is a case of pursuing outdated technologies to meet the need. Similar to the way that the major telecommunications companies are all but abandoning their wire-line telephone services due to high cost of installation and maintenance, the same can be said for low customer density internet service in an age where Starlink, OneWeb and several others will be able to provide high speed internet service almost anywhere in the world, with no cost borne by those who are not using the service.
Starlink already has 540 satellites in orbit as of June, and has FCC approval to have 12,000 total in service, with a goal of over 44,000. In this year or early next, they will begin consumer beta testing service, with full service anticipated in the next year to 18 months. Starlink has already tested systems with the USAF and it far exceeded expectations, providing high-speed service to aircraft in-flight. OneWeb had a similar timeline, but has been hindered by the COVID-19 shutdown.
Additionally, the homes that are not served in Greene tend to be in the more mountainous, remote areas, which would require heavy expenditure of personnel hours and materials to install and maintain such a system. In a June 25th article in NC it was estimated to cost $800 million to provide service to those who do not currently have service for any reason. Another article put the cost of the infrastructure alone at $14,000 per mile, regardless of how many customers were on the circuit. In some of our areas, this may mean $30K or more for a single household. And those calculations were based on NC, which has much more favorable terrain. And NC’s plan will take 5 years to implement, if there are no delays or cost overruns. It is a government project...
Again, using expensive and time-consuming wire or fiber optics technology to provide service to these remotest of our residents is a case of pursuing technologies that are outdated, or soon to be, when planning to implement much more robust, lower cost, higher speed, and rapidly fielded alternatives are becoming widely available.
Jack R. Smith