There is a section of Ashburn called Data Center Alley. Somewhere around 70 percent of the world’s Internet passes through this corridor. Yet 20 miles down the road large portions of the western part of Loudoun County don’t have Internet access. All Points Broadband, a wireless service provider which recently absorbed Road Star Internet, hopes to change that by primarily focusing on delivering Internet to unserved or underserved areas. Beginning Nov. 1 Road Star customers will become All Points Broadband customers. Over the next few months the company will be investing more than $2 million in state-of-the-art wireless equipment and the construction of fiber-optic cable.
“We know that the state-of-the- art fixed wireless equipment can deliver high-quality unlimited data to the western part of the county,” said Jimmy Carr, the president of All Points Broadband.
Carr said customers can expect to “see a five to 20 times increase in the speed over what we have now.”
A gap study was conducted by the county in April to determine where Loudoun could improve its Internet connectivity.
The study stated “there are significant deficiencies in the county’s wireless infrastructure, for both cellular and broadband.”
For decades disagreements over unsightly cell towers and indecision on the issue of connectivity have left western Loudoun behind in the race to arm all citizens with Internet.
Because of the lack of population density in western Loudoun and the higher levels of foliage, the infrastructure costs to connect citizens outweigh the money that most major fiber-optic cable and Internet companies can make.
Loudoun will have to ask residents to reconsider its past stance on cell towers and look at ways to make a business case for providing Internet to western Loudoun so students and businesses don’t fall behind in the race for connectivity.
One suggestion was to host the towers on public land. Another was to host a Broadband Summit annually to discuss roadblocks to service and a modification to planning and zoning ordinances regarding towers.
“There are all kinds of things that a local government can do,” said Carr. “Some of that is regulatory and permitting side.”
However Carr wanted to be clear that, “We are not just a wireless provider. We are purposely a hybrid wired/wireless provider. Seeing a large crop of commercial towers in western Loudoun is not that important for us.”
Carr said the technology to provide low-cost wired and wireless Internet is rapidly improving. He believes the wireless Internet his company can provide will be indistinguishable on most home networks from the wired Internet in the western portion of the county.
New residential plans will start at $79 a month for an unlimited connection.
Most other options in areas unserved by fiber-optic cable have limited data plans or are much more expensive.
“If your readers in western Loudoun think they don’t have an option for fast Internet, they now have an option,” said Carr.
– Ben Hancock, Loudoun Times