Sussex County seat set to join broadband’s super-highway

SUSSEX COUNTY – Near limitless internet speeds are on the way to Sussex County’s heart.

During the final quarter of 2015, Broad Valley Micro Fiber Networks is installing a 10-mile “fiber ring” around Georgetown with the county signing on as its cornerstone client.

Broad Valley was selected by Sussex County Council through a request for proposal to design, construct and maintain the fiber-optic network. Sussex County will pay approximately $100,000 annually to Broad Valley, out of Reston, Va., for a five-year period and will lease space on the ring for monthly service. Remaining space on the line can be leased by Broad Valley to other customers on its path.

Fiber ring

Sussex County Council President Mike Vincent cuts the ribbon celebrating the soon to be completed Georgetown fiber-ring. The ring is expected to have a significant impact on the county seat’s economy by bringing the area some of the fastest broadband speeds available. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

“You try to get one customer first as your anchor tenant, and what better anchor tenant than the county itself,” Broad Valley founder and CEO Pete Aquino said.

Several state and local legislators, along with Governor Jack Markell, joined Broad Valley in The Circle last Tuesday to celebrate a ribbon cutting for the fiber-ring.

Not only will the increased broadband speeds attract jobs to area, Gov. Markell said, it will also aid those who currently work in central Sussex County including farmers.

“High speed can make an amazing difference, and we really believe that more jobs are going to be possible with faster internet access,” Gov. Markell said. “A lot of people throughout the country don’t realize how high-tech agriculture has become. It is amazing to visit with some of our farmers and see the high tech investments in really sophisticated equipment that broadband enables.”

The ring connects all of the county’s buildings – administrative offices on The Circle, West Complex on Route 113 and the Records Management Center and Emergency Operations Center at the Sussex County Airport – and gives them a two-way path to send and receive data at speeds of up to 10-gigabits per second over the county’s secured network.

Fiber line, because it uses glass as its conductor, is immune from forms of interference such as electricity that can plague copper cable lines. Speeds to businesses will be limited only by the equipment they buy to accesses the line.

The ring, Mr. Aquino said, will also be entirely underground, which gives its clients even more security.

“Protection from storm,” Mr. Aquino said of his company’s decision to stay underground with the ring, something Broad Valley paid for on its own without state or county grants. “Any reason a pole goes down, which can be hit by a car or storm, all of that is problematic. And other people – electricity, cable – are on poles.

“If you can put it underground it is literally two or three times more expensive, but this is a pure new investment.”

While plenty of land is available in Sussex County, a previous lack of broadband access hindered the area in terms of attracting potential new businesses. With the fiber-optic broadband infrastructure in place, central Sussex will now be much more appealing to potential businesses that need high speed internet access to operate.

“Whether it’s economic development, improved education tools, people working from home, you’ll see the difference,” Mr. Aquino said. “Hopefully more jobs, relocation of business facilities to southern Delaware, we’re the beginning of that movement. We’re switching the model, saying this is a community broadband effort. Let’s help the county and then the others in the county, consumers, businesses and so on, to enjoy the benefits.”

If things go well in the Georgetown area, access to similar speeds by way of fiber-optics could spread throughout Delaware’s southernmost county, which until recently seemed destined to remain far behind current data transfer technology.

“We want to really focus on towns throughout Sussex County and move our way through Delmarva, to the extent we could qualify for state or federal grants to subsidize or supplement what we are doing,” Mr. Aquino said. “The more help we get, the faster and farther and deeper we can go as the community broadband provider. We want to be in position to do that.”


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