Jackson County Commission was awarded 2017 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding for a project to provide broadband internet in the Sandyville area in 2017. Jackson County assembled a broadband working group to help review proposals for engineers and design consultants, eventually contracting with Thompson and Litton Engineers from Wise, Virginia.

Due to the public funding involved, the project was required to be bid for installation and operation, a number of Internet Service Providers were contacted. RT21.NET, a Jackson County company owned by Mark Fowler, was the accepted bidder and was given a notice to proceed on project work on March 3, 2020.

Since the low bid was higher than the initial grant award, that state added $12,500 to the project budget and the Jackson County Commission chose to contribute up to $49,979 in local funds to keep the project advancing toward completion.

Fowler has updated a web link with information specific to the Sandyville Broadband Project at rt21.net/Sandyville. A map with the boundary of the designated project area and topographical highlights of where the broadband signal will be best can guide residents in determining their likely accessibility to service. The public can also email sandyville@rt21.net with questions.

Most of the project work to date has been planning, system design, specifying and ordering equipment, configuring system components, plus the backhaul build-out (source of broadband connection) which will connect the Sandyville tower and customers to broadband internet. The project includes equipment to be installed on the County’s tower and at customer locations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to certain delays because manufacturers have had shutdowns and employee reductions. Banks and state governments have also had to turn their focus to COVID-19 financial recovery and CARES Act programming which has affected the flow of project funds. Given the concerns with COVID-19 and growing education needs for sufficient home internet access, a goal is to have internet service to households before the school year starts in fall. There will be a public announcement when scheduling of installations begins.

The federal definition of broadband, which this project must meet, is speeds of 25 megabytes per second (Mbps) download, and three Mbps upload. Customers may see faster speeds than that, there are no data caps, and if the household/business served is in the qualified Community Development Block Grant service area they will have no installation fee and the initial service agreement will cost $55 a month.