Virginia Broadband, a wireless internet provider headquartered in Culpeper, is one of 10 companies worldwide to win a Microsoft Affordable Access Initiative grant.
That grant helps provide funds to assist Virginia Broadband (VABB) in bringing high-speed internet service to isolated areas.
“VABB’s winning proposal to Microsoft was simple: Help us plant a series of inexpensive stand-alone utility poles in remote areas so that we can relay our wireless internet services deep into rural, isolated areas,” said Joe Lenig, director of marketing and sales for the company.
Called “Microspots”, these mini-towers, which stand only 50 to 80 feet high, will help VABB reach small pockets of rural homes situated in thick trees, in a hollow or behind hills. And, unlike large cellular towers, their height makes them almost unnoticeable, Lenig said.
VABB uses existing commercial and municipal towers to transmit its signals, but sometimes those signals are blocked.
“Unfortunately, many rural homes and businesses are not reachable due to the hills, hollows, and trees,” Lenig said. “The terrain in our region is our biggest obstacle and that’s where Microsoft’s grant comes in.”
Excluding county building, zoning fees (which vary from county to county) and engineering costs, constructing and equipping each Microspot will cost about $10,000.
The grant money will help fund nine Microspots in rural areas of Culpeper, Orange and Madison counties, Lenig said. Landowners who allow VABB to plant poles on their property could receive free internet service.
VABB is working now to complete building and zoning requirements and hopes to begin establishing Microspots in the near future.
“Rural Virginians want high-speed internet,” said Robert Sullivan, chief executive officer, president and an original founder of VABB. “Our goal is to continue to make that happen.”