Wireless Authority update:
The King George Wireless Authority attempted to bring affordable wireless Internet service throughout the county, including less dense areas without access.
The effort failed, despite it being conducted strictly under state law and backed by county cash.
Last week, the King George Wireless Authority authorized a mutual release and settlement agreement with Virginia Broadband LLC, in accordance with the terms of a plan devised for the company by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Virginia.
The March 3 vote was taken following a closed session and without comment from authority members.
“Virginia Broadband’s plan resulted in all their creditors receiving payments that were much-reduced from the original value of the claims submitted, including the King George County Wireless Authority. While frustrating, that is often the result, and indeed the purpose of bankruptcy,” said King George County Attorney Eric Gregory. “A mutual dismissal of this litigation will avoid additional attorneys’ fees and costs for the wireless authority, which is a positive benefit.”
|King George County and the George Washington Regional Commission are promoting an Internet speed mapping application to assist in determining the current state of service in this region.
Virginia Tech’s Accelerate Virginia is a new broadband mapping project that seeks to expand high-speed Internet access across the state. The input will help to verify the state broadband map and identify areas in need of affordable broadband infrastructure investment.
Perform the test by visiting http://acceleratevirginia.org/speedtest and your results will be provided to you. They also will be compared with other tests and mapped for determining hi-speed availability and requirements in the area.
The company has agreed to dismiss counterclaims it filed in response to litigation initiated by the wireless authority and the county for breach of contract in the King George circuit court back in December 2011. That filing also asked to recoup the money it lent the company with interest due.
This means the county authority will end its unsatisfactory relationship with Virginia Broadband and not get back the bulk of the $713,000 it lent to the company. The authority will be provided the equipment purchased with the loan money.
In 2003, King George began to implement new state legislation for underserved localities to establish a wireless authority and initiate a public-private plan for widespread wireless.
It was never easy and took years to discover it is still impossible.
The wireless authority was formed in late 2006. It investigated possible options and Virginia Broadband was selected from four companies. After lengthy negotiation, a contract was signed in January 2008.
The authority lent money to the company to purchase equipment and provided the use of county-owned and controlled structures, including cell towers and water towers on which to install the equipment.
The company was to meet stated goals, such as making broadband available to about 70 percent of the county having about 80 percent of known structures during the first 24-months.
It was expected to pay back the loan within five years while providing wireless broadband internet service to ever-increasing subscribers.
Despite numerous efforts to enforce the terms of the agreement, the goals for Internet service were not achieved and payback payments were not made.
In August 2011, the wireless authority terminated its contract with the company then filed legal in December 2011.
When a preliminary hearing was held in May 2012, the statement was made in open court that the company only had about 20 customers in King George.
In November 2012, the company filed for bankruptcy. That action put the litigation with the county authority on hold.
The members of the board of supervisors/wireless authority have commented in the past, venting a little of their frustration with the issue, particularly when newer residents to the county have chided them for not doing more.
One of the last times members became engaged on the topic was November 2013.
“I don’t have any government solution. We cannot order them to come and put service in the county. It doesn’t work that way,” said Supervisor Joe Grzeika.
Last year, supervisors appointed a technology committee peopled with interested county residents. It is to make recommendations on policies and matters related to technology, and make the board aware of effective, efficient technology opportunities.