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Nelson: Fiber Network Manager Announced – Update 12.8.12 – 1:30PM

[ 6 ] December 6, 2012 | Nelson County Life
Blue Ridge Life™2012 : Photo By Yvette Stafford : North District Board of Supervisor Tommy Harvey and Nelson County Administrator Steve Carter (left) discuss a variety of issues Wednesday night during a town hall meeting at RVCC. The most discussed topic was the status of fiber high speed internet across Nelson County.

Afton
Nelson County, VA

Updated By Tommy Stafford – 12.8.12 at 1:30 PM
Talk about awkward. Owning a magazine with a companion website that is covering the topic of a new fiber broadband network being installed here in Nelson County while sitting on an advisory committee for that very project. It’s no secret I have questioned some of the methods and disclosures of county officials along the way over the past year, (see story below) which eventually led to an exchange between myself and Nelson County’s administrator. For this reason, I have resigned this weekend from that committee so I/we can cover this issue in its entirety without any conflicts whatsoever. It’s the right thing to do.

I sent my letter of resignation and reasons why to Mr. John Taylor, the Chairman of that committee who lives at Wintergreen, along with Alan Patrick (vice chair) who lives in the Rockfish Valley in Nellysford. Both of these men are honorable people. They have worked hard on this project in an advisory capacity over the past year or so. I’ve nothing but praise for them. This move has nothing to do with them. To the contrary.

Below you will find the text of the letter I sent to Mr. Taylor Saturday morning.

Dear John,

I joined the Broadband Advisory Committee within the past two years despite my personal reservations regarding the notion of Federal taxpayer money being used to fund the creation of a local telecommunications infrastructure. However, once the stimulus funding had been secured, I surely did not want to see that money go to waste. Because of my previous experience in telecom (I was a managing partner in a tower / telecommunications company in Tennessee), and because my current publishing business relies on fast internet for productivity to meet deadlines, I figured I could offer valuable insight as this project progressed.

It has always been my concern that such an expansive project — though kick started with Federal stimulus dollars — would in the end prove to be unaffordable to most families and businesses in Nelson County. It was my hope the Broadband Advisory Committee could serve as a liaison between the County and its taxpayers. But for that, you need transparency.

To my dismay, an unpainted broadband tower was erected at Martins Store, not too far from where nTelos erected its cell tower, which met aesthetic design standards as it stood along a Virginia byway. Though the County made private carriers paint their poles and make them as discrete as possible in an attempt to blend into the scenery, the County failed to abide by its own rules leaving those living here and visitors to the Rockfish Valley with an eyesore.

I am concerened that somehow my recent remarks were twisted as though I blamed county staff for the problems we have encountered from top managers and administrators regarding transparency. That has never been the case. Conversely, I have personally championed their commitment and dedication throughout this entire project.

At the Town Hall meeting on December 5th at the Rockfish Valley Community Center, attendees were legitimately concerned as to the availability and pricing of the county’s broadband network. Though Blue Ridge Internetworks’ entry into the project as a manager/ISP is a positive, the fact that the Nelson County Broadband Authority has yet to announce workable, realistic rates, is worrisome. These rates will indirectly determine rates and packages set by local ISPs.

Given my vocal criticism of the process, as well as the fact that I publish a local magazine which has covered the project in it’s web version, I feel that it is best to step down from the committee to avoid any conflict of interest.

That said, I wish those involved in the process my very best. It’s my hope the project is successfully completed allowing fiber internet to be a reality in the near future.

It’s been a sincere pleasure serving with you and Alan along with other members of the committee.

Best Regards,
Tommy

Updated By Tommy Stafford – 12.7.12 at 4:15 PM
On Friday morning December 7th, Nelson County Administrator Steve Carter called our office to expresse his displeasure with a quote that BRL/NCL Publisher Tommy Stafford gave regarding the status of the fiber project.”I read your post and was very disappointed about your comment that this project was off course or whatever you said, which is completely ridiculous, Tommy, and not very much appreciated,” Carter said in his voicemail. This is the paragraph and quote pulled verbatim from the original story:

Blue Ridge Life Publisher and a member of the Nelson Broadband Advisory Committee, Tommy Stafford, had a lengthy conversation by phone with Baylor Fooks of BRI on Thursday morning. “I am convinced they mean business and will do this right. Admittedly, beyond any control committee members had, this project has drifted off course and delayed longer than projected. But, I feel with Baylor and his team at the helm now, things will change rapidly, for the good,” Stafford said.

After a followup phone call and in fairness to Steve Carter, I told him I would gladly update the story with his feelings of dissatisfaction. Carter vehemently disagreed that the project had become adrift and said it was on target and within the guidelines of the federal requirements. I conveyed that myself and at least two other members of the advisory committee have felt out of the loop on the progress and decisions made within the past six months. There were additional concerns, that to date, not a single business or residence had been connected and only Nelson Government had use of the network.

But, again stressed that I felt things were back on track now that a network operator and ISP had been selected. Though throughout the conversation we disagreed on several points, it ended positively agreeing to disagree on some aspects.

Original Story from 12.6.12
Nelson County administrator Steve Carter and Board of Supervisor Tommy Harvey hosted a town hall meeting at the Rockfish Valley Community Center to announce that the Nelson County Broadband Authority has chosen Blue Ridge Internetworks to operate and manage the County’s fiber network. Central District Supervisor Connie Brennan couldn’t attend the meeting due to being ill. In a prepared statement, BRI founder Baylor Fooks said his company cannot promise “super high speed Internet to everyone in Nelson County,” it is assessing the need and will be “provisioning the areas with the deepest concentration first.”

For months we have been following the progress of the fiber network which begins in Colleen and runs up Route 29 to Route 6 to 151 and north into Afton.

Among the concerns expressed from would-be subscribers are the rate structures and availability of providers. Clay Stewart, CEO of Arrington-based Stewart Computer Services, mentioned at the meeting that he was investigating the possibility of providing wireless internet to the Afton area using the county’s fiber network. He encouraged potential subscribers throughout the county to notify BRI as the company continues its area study and development of service plans and pricing.

Blue Ridge Life Publisher and a member of the Nelson Broadband Advisory Committee, Tommy Stafford, had a lengthy conversation by phone with Baylor Fooks of BRI on Thursday morning. “I am convinced they mean business and will do this right. Admittedly, beyond any control committee members had, this project has drifted off course and delayed longer than projected. But, I feel with Baylor and his team at the helm now, things will change rapidly, for the good,” Stafford said.

Ironically, the only people currently with the actual use of the fiber network is Nelson County Government. Thus far, no private entities have had access to the network. That should change soon, with BRI entering the game.

http://briworks.com/access/broadband-in-nelson/

According to BRI’s web site, the company is hoping to launch broadband service in early 2013.

Here is BRI’s official release Thursday morning:

The Nelson County
Broadband Authority has
Chosen Blue Ridge
InternetWorks to Operate
and Manage The County’s
Fiber Network
Nelson County To Become An American Fibertown.

Nelson County, Virginia, December 5, 2012: Nelson County is days from full deployment of a 30 mile fiber optic network and has chosen Blue Ridge InternetWorks to manage the new network. This means high-speed, fiber-optic Internet is headed to Nelson County.
The Nelson County broadband project constructed a fiber optic middle mile networkdesigned to provide a state of the art high-speed fiber optic backbone extending generally through the center of Nelson County from north to south, providing the ‘highway’ for private providers to enhance and expand broadband internet services in the county. Generally speaking the network runs from Afton through Greenfield and Lovingston ending in Colleen.
Blue Ridge InternetWorks will also be a private internet service provider using the network to deliver high-speed Internet services to customers within the County.
“Our goal is to bring affordable first class internet services to Nelson County. We are thrilled to have Blue Ridge on the Nelson County team. They are already working to design service offerings and packages to bring our local businesses and residents up to higher Internet speed,” says Thomas Bruguiere, Broadband Authority Chairman.

“This is a middle mile network,” says Baylor Fooks, founder of Blue
Ridge Internetworks. “This means we cannot promise super high speed Internet to everyone in Nelson County. What it does mean is that we are assessing need and will likely be provisioning the areas with the deepest concentration first.”
Kick off for high speed Internet in Nelson begins in 2013. The County maintains a very unique topography so Blue Ridge will be analyzing the network on a case-by-case basis. Fortunately this involves citizen and business feedback and input.
“Honestly this begins with consumers telling us what they need,” says Jeff Cornejo, of Blue Ridge Internetworks. “We really want to know who to serve first. To that we’d like consumers to go to our website or call us to register their interest. It’s the absolute key to getting high speed Internet coverage in your boardroom or living room in 2013.”

If you live or work in Nelson County tell us where you need high speed Internet by visiting http://www.briworks.com/access/broadband-in-nelson or call 434-951-7999 to give us your information.

About Nelson County Broadband Authority: http://www.nelsoncounty-
va.gov/government/board-of-supervisors/broadband-project/

The Nelson County Board of Supervisors serves as the Broadband Authority which oversees the network. The project was funded by Federal ARRA funding, Commonwealth of Virginia block grants and local government funding. Additional information is available on the NTIA Broadband USA project site.
About Blue Ridge Internetworks (http://www.briworks.com)
Blue Ridge InternetWork’s headquarters and data center are located in Charlottesville, VA. Founded in 2000, BRI offers hosting, IT services and high-speed Internet access. BRI has a staff of 25 employees. This team plans, designs, implements and maintains high-speed data networks for more than 1500 customers.

Afton
Nelson County, VA

Nelson County administrator Steve Carter and Board of Supervisor Tommy Harvey hosted a town hall meeting at the Rockfish Valley Community Center to announce that the Nelson County Broadband Authority has chosen Blue Ridge Internetworks to operate and manage the County’s fiber network. Central District Supervisor Connie Brennan couldn’t attend the meeting due to being ill. In a prepared statement, BRI founder Baylor Fooks said his company cannot promise “super high speed Internet to everyone in Nelson County,” it is assessing the need and will be “provisioning the areas with the deepest concentration first.”

For months we have been following the progress of the fiber network which begins in Colleen and runs up Route 29 to Route 6 to 151 and north into Afton.

Among the concerns expressed from would-be subscribers are the rate structures and availability of providers. Clay Stewart, CEO of Arrington-based Stewart Computer Services, mentioned at the meeting that he was investigating the possibility of providing wireless internet to the Afton area using the county’s fiber network. He encouraged potential subscribers throughout the county to notify BRI as the company continues its area study and development of service plans and pricing.

Blue Ridge Life Publisher and a member of the Nelson Broadband Advisory Committee, Tommy Stafford, had a lengthy conversation by phone with Baylor Fooks of BRI on Thursday morning. “I am convinced they mean business and will do this right. Admittedly, beyond any control committee members had, this project has drifted off course and delayed longer than projected. But, I feel with Baylor and his team at the helm now, things will change rapidly, for the good,” Stafford said.

Ironically, the only people currently with the actual use of the fiber network is Nelson County Government. Thus far, no private entities have had access to the network. That should change soon, with BRI entering the game.

http://briworks.com/access/broadband-in-nelson/

According to BRI’s web site, the company is hoping to launch broadband service in early 2013.

Here is BRI’s official release Thursday morning:

The Nelson County
Broadband Authority has
Chosen Blue Ridge
InternetWorks to Operate
and Manage The County’s
Fiber Network
Nelson County To Become An American Fibertown.

Nelson County, Virginia, December 5, 2012: Nelson County is days from full deployment of a 30 mile fiber optic network and has chosen Blue Ridge InternetWorks to manage the new network. This means high-speed, fiber-optic Internet is headed to Nelson County.
The Nelson County broadband project constructed a fiber optic middle mile networkdesigned to provide a state of the art high-speed fiber optic backbone extending generally through the center of Nelson County from north to south, providing the ‘highway’ for private providers to enhance and expand broadband internet services in the county. Generally speaking the network runs from Afton through Greenfield and Lovingston ending in Colleen.
Blue Ridge InternetWorks will also be a private internet service provider using the network to deliver high-speed Internet services to customers within the County.
“Our goal is to bring affordable first class internet services to Nelson County. We are thrilled to have Blue Ridge on the Nelson County team. They are already working to design service offerings and packages to bring our local businesses and residents up to higher Internet speed,” says Thomas Bruguiere, Broadband Authority Chairman.

“This is a middle mile network,” says Baylor Fooks, founder of Blue
Ridge Internetworks. “This means we cannot promise super high speed Internet to everyone in Nelson County. What it does mean is that we are assessing need and will likely be provisioning the areas with the deepest concentration first.”
Kick off for high speed Internet in Nelson begins in 2013. The County maintains a very unique topography so Blue Ridge will be analyzing the network on a case-by-case basis. Fortunately this involves citizen and business feedback and input.
“Honestly this begins with consumers telling us what they need,” says Jeff Cornejo, of Blue Ridge Internetworks. “We really want to know who to serve first. To that we’d like consumers to go to our website or call us to register their interest. It’s the absolute key to getting high speed Internet coverage in your boardroom or living room in 2013.”

If you live or work in Nelson County tell us where you need high speed Internet by visiting http://www.briworks.com/access/broadband-in-nelson or call 434-951-7999 to give us your information.

About Nelson County Broadband Authority: http://www.nelsoncounty-
va.gov/government/board-of-supervisors/broadband-project/

The Nelson County Board of Supervisors serves as the Broadband Authority which oversees the network. The project was funded by Federal ARRA funding, Commonwealth of Virginia block grants and local government funding. Additional information is available on the NTIA Broadband USA project site.
About Blue Ridge Internetworks (http://www.briworks.com)
Blue Ridge InternetWork’s headquarters and data center are located in Charlottesville, VA. Founded in 2000, BRI offers hosting, IT services and high-speed Internet access. BRI has a staff of 25 employees. This team plans, designs, implements and maintains high-speed data networks for more than 1500 customers.

Related posts:

  1. Work Continues Toward Completion Of Fiber Network In Nelson
  2. Construction On High Speed Fiber Internet Begins In Nelson!
  3. Good Progress Continues On Installation Of Fiber Internet In Nelson County
  4. Nelson Broadband Advisory Committee Meets : 8.12.10
  5. nTelos Wireless Tower Goes Up Wednesday Afternoon North Of Nellysford – UPDATE 9:20 AM EST

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  1. Connie Brennan says:

    Thanks for spreading the word about the Broadband project, and would like to add my two cents to your story. I was quite disappointed to miss the Town Meeting, but am still battling the flu.
    This project has been quite a challenge, and full of difficulties through which the County staff have persisted despite the frustrations. The Advisory Sub-Committee has brought expertise to the project, which has been much appreciated. I think it unfair to say that the project has drifted off-course. Major difficulties that have pushed it back include the decision to bury the cable rather than put it on the power lines, getting easements from landowners, unexpected problems with laying the cable (attributable to lots of rock along Rt. 6 and VDOT disagreements), endless efforts to locate an appropriate site for a tower in Massies Mill (the County topography has been very challenging), poor response to our requests and searches for both a network operator and service providers, challenges with meeting requirements that come along with federal funding, to name a few. In spite of these, the project is scheduled to be completed within the mandated timeframe! We are delighted to have Blue Ridge InternetWorks on board, and look forward to hearing good things from their customers. It is important to understand that the County’s project only encompasses providing fiber access and tower availability to others who will provide the actual service. The County cannot in any way control what the provider chooses to do or to charge.
    One last comment: while it may seem ironic that the only entity with use of the network is the County, it should be remembered that the federal grant requirement mandated that the network provide access to County government , the schools, the library, and health care facilities. Our original (and only until BRI) service provider contracted to connect the County facilities and then backed away and said it would not be providing any service to other entities. Talk about frustration! The County connections we have are beta-testing the network, to be sure it is working correctly. So again, we are very pleased to have Blue Ridge InternetWorks on board.
    I would like to thank the members of County staff who have worked so hard on the project, and another thanks to the Advisory Committee for its assistance. We still have lots of work to do, but we are in the home-stretch now.
    Lucky to live in Nelson County, Connie

  2. Yvette Stafford says:

    Thanks for chiming in Connie. What confuses me is your statement regarding how the County has no effect on the rates providers will determine. Doesn’t the Nelson County Broadband Authority set the rate structure which providers then use to determine their rates? It seems to me that any rates providers roll out are indirectly affected by the BA rate structure. My biggest concern is that the BA will come up with a rate structure so high that ISPs will be forced to release rates that are too high, rates that most families and most small businesses will find unaffordable. Sorry you couldn’t come to the meeting and hope you are resting well.

  3. Homer Barnswallow says:

    Well, it is most curious that this important issue has been exposed to be yet another smoke and mirrors schemes, controlling issues directly out of the administrator’s office, treating committee members and the public like mushrooms (kept in the dark). For months there has been talk of committee members being left out of the loop. Finally, a member makes reference to that. (truth hurts sometimes) It is discouraging that, after watching Nelson County grow for the past six decades, surviving years and cycles of the “good ol’ boy network” come and go, finally, when it counts the most, the powers that be in Lovingston use their unfettered selfish minded inklings to stymie the progress so badly needed to bring Nelson into the next century (which in this case would be the “late 20th”) . It is high time that the Supervisors stop drinking the administrator’s Kool-Aid, (stop being such a stereotypical “good soldier”, Ms. Brennan, and open your eyes!) and take a good long look at the person pulling all the strings … and realize the types of actions that they are necessarily endorsing by such support. It is one thing to drink the Kool-Aid… and quite another thing to be serving it. SHAME on Lovingston! Open your eyes, people! Do any of you realize what a liability to Nelson County and its future this behavior by the administration and the Supervisors represents? Do you really think it can all be swept under the rug again? I don’t think so…

    Homer Barnswallow
    Nelson County

  4. Thank you for your service on this effort, Tommy. It is disturbing that someone so knowledgeable on the subject has been more or less forced off the Committee due to moral standards: that is, higher standards than the Administrator, evidently. Hopefully, the remaining Committee members will maintain vigilant oversight on the remaining parts of the process.
    @ Mr. Barnswallow… your thoughts are well-noted, but sir, check your meds. Your fervor is getting the better of you.
    @Connie Brennan…please do the right thing and shine the light on the truth here, as we know you can. Stand up for the people of Nelson, and do not be misled by an Administrator willing to employ intimidation and deceit to get his way (as his interactions with the Nelson County Home Builders’ Association has proven time and again). Thank you, Connie, for your years of service to the people of Nelson. Hopefully we can keep it moving forward.

  5. Connie Brennan says:

    Back to you, Yvette! I said in my message that we cannot control what ISP’s charge for service, but you are absolutely right: the rate structure set by the BB Authority for use of the fiber will surely have an effect on ISP fees. To that end, the BB Authority is meeting with the Advisory Committee and others interested on Tuesday evening to review where we are and what we can do to help any and all providers. My concern is the same as yours: we must find a way to make service affordable.
    To Tommy: It is with sadness that I learned of your resignation from the Advisory Committee. Your perspective and knowledge have meant a lot to me, and I certainly respect your thoughts on what is happening. You may be off the Committee, but my phone is always open.

  6. JOE DAN JOHNSON says:

    While serving on the Board of Supervisors I did push hard for this project. I expressed concerns at its onset with the fact that we could not address tower location after the grant was accepted even though service needs had changed. I pushed for a true advisory committee to meet in full (not just the selected subcommittee) with the Broadband Authority (BOS) directly and not through Steve Carter. Since that time I have spoken repeatedly about the need to make this a provider network and not a “carrier” model network. I know that we have two home grown business trying to expand last mile services here in this county. While on the BOS we acted to give tax incentives to local businesses if they provided local jobs. This project offers a similar opportunity. We could approve a very low price structure for both companies to use the county network and towers if they agree to show that they have provided services while continuing to expand the availability of connections away from the backbone itself (new wireless tower/poles or fiber branches)for last mile connections thus providing service to hundreds of users now and insuring that we discourage “cherry picking” of the easiest to reach customers by some outside firm with little interest in truly benefiting the community as a whole.