Harrisonburg, Virginia (WHSV) – Shentel has announced that Beam Internet service will expire on November 30 and will leave many rural areas in Augusta and Rockingham counties with limited options for high-speed Internet access.
More than 1,100 homes in Augusta, Rockingham and Shenandoah counties are using the Beam network and will lose their coverage. On Wednesday, WHSV met with some Valley lawmakers and county leaders to get their feedback and discuss possible solutions.
“A lot of people won’t have a bridge at all. They won’t be able to find an alternative internet service, and that’s very worrying,” said State Senator Mark Openshine, a Republican who represents Rockingham County.
Senator Openshine said that according to figures he obtained from Shentel, more than 500 homes in both Augusta and Rockingham counties are using the Internet. Schinle hopes to reconsider the termination.
“Shentel has a rich history of being the number one provider of rural telephone service which has been a really good fit for its stature,” said Obenshain. “So many people have grown to rely on them and share an understanding and confidence that they will be there so they can bring wired internet to their homes.”
Rockingham County Republican delegate Tony Wilt said he was sad to hear that Shentel was stopping Beam but gave them credit for their efforts to expand broadband in rural parts of the valley.
“This has been a brewing problem for a number of years and from where I sit hats off to Shentel to come forward, look what they did. They invested tens of millions of dollars to put Beam out there and put it to the citizens, they did it on their own initiative and didn’t wait for government money,” Wilt said.
Wilt hopes other carriers will ramp up and expand coverage. Meanwhile, he said, addressing broadband access in rural areas remains an important issue.
“COVID highlighted that. We closed schools and expected children to learn online when a large portion of them did not have internet and we saw the results of that. It is not for this reason alone that we need to move forward, but this really highlighted the need to Most of the rural people.
Some people in Augusta County are concerned about the impact of stopping Beam with limited options for those in rural areas of the county.
“The digital divide in Augusta and Rockingham counties is taking a huge step back. Unfortunately for most affected individuals, we have a low level or some individuals will not have internet access,” said Amy Thornton, a member of the Augusta County Broadband Commission.
Augusta County Republican Senator Emmett Hunger said he has been in contact with Chantelle since the announcement. He said that although nothing was finalized, he was confident that the company would reach an agreement to transfer its internet service to another provider.
“I am encouraged that there can be a bridge there and that the person being handed over will be able to take over before these individuals, approximately 1,500 individuals lose touch,” Hunger said.
In his view, he said, Shentel’s decision to terminate Beam is a little more complicated than it might seem.
“They’ve been kind of pushed into making a decision based on some of the contracting that’s been pushed a little farther who’s going to do more than land and licensing and that kind of put them in a box as much as they can,” he said.
For those who live in rural areas of the valley, help will arrive on the way. Rockingham and Augusta counties will get nearly universal broadband connectivity through a regional partnership headed by All Points Broadband that has been It was launched last year.
“They’re in the early stages of that. They’ll be using the Dominion Power and Shenandoah Valley Electric pipeline and their fiber pipeline. It’s going to take some time to be fully developed and they’ll have connections about that time a year from now,” said Stephen King, director of Rockingham County. .
The project received a temporary grant of $95 million for the Virginia Communications Initiative in December. The project will include Augusta, Clark, Fawker, Frederick, Page, Rappahannock, Rockingham and Warren counties.
It will include 3,100 miles of fiber infrastructure and connect 41,000 currently unserved locations. 7,580 of these sites are in County Rockingham.
They have three years to complete the project with state funding. We don’t know what they will do, when and what they will do first. “Their goal is to get their contractors to work in an area to keep them active and keep them occupied, so they don’t leave the area and go elsewhere to do other work,” King said.
King said Shentel reached out to him personally to tell him about Beam’s end.
It affects, according to their numbers, 500-550 individuals (in the county of Rockingham). We know a lot of people who have this service, county employees use that service and a board member uses that service. So it’s definitely something that we are aware of and that will create a void and a void for the people who depend on it.”
The regional broadband initiative will make a huge difference in both countries, but it will take at least a year before connections begin and three before they are all completed.
“The challenge for me and every other Beam customer is what do we do in the meantime? It’s no longer okay to tell people who live in rural areas ‘this is a trade-off you make for a home in the country.’” Amy Thornton said I liken it to the need for the rural electrification act for the year 1936.
Senator Mark Openshine said that while the regional broadband project is a huge win, Beam’s loss in the short term is still painful.
“It’s coming. We’ve got funding, both state and federal, and it’s going to be there but it can’t magically be brought down overnight,” Openshine said. Page and Shenandoah. He will be here soon but this is a huge setback for a lot of families.”
Shentel WHSV has sent the following statement regarding its decision to terminate Beam.
The decision to terminate Beam’s service was not easy. We understand the impact of removing internet access on individuals and families. We have invested tens of millions of dollars to ensure that those who need access to the Internet, especially during the height of the pandemic.
However, at this time, Shentel is shifting its spectrum in these areas to a national wireless provider that will be able to provide additional wireless broadband coverage. Over the next few weeks, we will provide additional details as our spectrum transition progresses.
We saw ourselves as part of the solution to bridging the digital divide and worked in the grant selection process with the Commonwealth to receive funds from the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) to continue and even expand this service.
Unfortunately, due to several factors, the grant landscape has changed drastically, and funds have been allocated to fiber providers across our Beam region. We understand that this is a difficult transition, but we understand that companies that have received grant funding will be installing fiber networks in these areas.
In addition to a new national wireless provider adding wireless broadband service in these areas, we also hope that the supported fiber companies will be able to provide broadband service so that communities have multiple alternatives to their Internet service.
Please visit the Commonwealth Connection Map at: https://commonwealth-connection.com/ For the latest information on fiber optic service grants.
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