By Ted Shockley
The Eastern Shore’s publicly owned broadband provider is planning to lower its commercial rates, which one member of the Northampton County Board of Supervisors described as “outrageous.”
“That’s the biggest complaint that I’ve heard,” Supervisor John Coker told Robert Bridgham at a meeting Tuesday night. “Your commercial rates are outrageous.”
The Eastern Shore of Virginia Broadband Authority charges businesses more than four times what a provider like Neubeam charges for similar bandwidth.
But Bridgham, the executive director of the authority, said the authority’s board has sought the creation of “small business rates” between $50 and $100 monthly.
Currently a small business could expect to pay roughly $500 monthly for broadband authority service. But residential service gets a much lower rate — as low as $39.99 per month.
Even with the lower rate, commercial providers like Neubeam can be less expensive because of the broadband authority’s higher installation prices.
While the local broadband authority has its fiber cable on major thoroughfares, it costs about $40,000 per mile to run buried fiber to more remote locales. Installation costs for buildings near the fiber cable even can be expensive.
Installation to remote locations can be divided among residences if enough group together.
Still, Bridgham said it could take “60 to 90 days” for the broadband authority to install service.
Even though the broadband authority was established in 2008 by Accomack and Northampton counties to provide a solution to the Eastern Shore’s Internet deficiencies, only “60 to 65 percent” of the area has the publicly funded service, Bridgham said.
But one fix could be on the way, as business rates get lower.
“Our commercial rates are more expensive than most people would like,” Bridgham said.
“There’s a lot of businesses that would love to have your services but just can’t afford it,” Coker told Bridgham.