Commissioners to hear broadband proposal

Broadband internet provider to outline possible partnernship with county

Next Thursday’s public hearing of the Washington County Commissioners may have an impact on the internet speed that the rural residents of the county receive.

Agile Networks, an internet provider based in Canton, is scheduled to propose a public/ private partnership with the county. If formed, the partnership will bring broadband access to residents of the county who currently have no high speed internet.

The proposal was brought to the commissioners’ attention during Thursday’s meeting. In an email to the commissioners, Agile Networks requested a chance to pitch their proposal which the commissioners unanimously voted to accept.

Rick Walters, commission president, said he’s interested in hearing more from the company.

“I think it’s a wonderful thought. A lot of people in Stanleyville and Lower Salem don’t have access to broadband internet,” he said.

The partnership isn’t guaranteed, though. Past proposals from other internet providers didn’t fit the needs of the county, said Walters.

“I’m cautiously optimistic. Agile Networks may be a big enough business to get this done. We’ve tried other companies in the past and have been disappointed,” Walters said.

Commissioner David White said he is also hopeful about the possibilities but is leery due to previous attempts at connecting rural areas of the county to broadband.

“I want to keep the door open to the idea because broadband internet is a key to economic development in the county,” said White.

“My recollection is that Smart Networks received a grant to get high speed internet into the rural areas…they only managed to get a few people connected with spotty service before going bankrupt. They left a bad taste in the mouths of a lot of people in the county. I’m not exactly sure what a public/private partnership means and will have to wait until next week’s meeting to really understand it,” he said.

According to its website Agile Network Builders, which also does business as Agile Network, launched in January 2010. During its inception Agile focused mainly on designing and deploying wireless backhaul networks. The company then transitioned to being a telecom provider.

The latest rollout of broadband for rural areas by Agile Networks was in Belmont County.

If You Go

• What: Weekly meeting of the Washington County Commissioners.

• When : 9 a.m. Thursday.

•Where: 204 Davis Ave.