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County to spend $600,000 on cell service on hiking trails | Govt. and politics

ABINGDON, Virginia – Broadband services could arrive in the most remote parts of the Virginia Creeper Trail.

The Washington County Board of Supervisors has approved spending of up to $610,000 to pay a consulting firm to put in place a plan to establish service on the eastern half of the Virginia Creeper Trail and farther sections of the Mendota Trail, a railroad project. which is still under construction.

On Tuesday, the board approved a motion by Vice Chairman Mike Rush, seconded by Supervisor Dwayne Ball, to authorize County Administrator Jason Berry to hire Ernest & Young, a firm specializing in broadband infrastructure and connectivity. governments with fiber optic and mobile phone service providers. .

The move could impact a few residents who live along the train tracks, but also tourists who visit the area, Rush said.

“We’re in the 21st century…and people don’t expect to look at their phones and see nothing, Rush said.

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The contract gives Berry up to $610,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) federal funds to install a pilot program to provide broadband services.

These trail areas include locations along the lower eastern end of the Virginia Creeper Trail at Green Cove, Taylors Valley, and Creek Junction, as well as the upper end of the Mendota Trail near Mendota and the North Fork of the Holston River .

Berry expressed concern that trail users couldn’t even access text messages in some places.

“There are a lot of challenges for cellphone calls — and event texts — on the Creeper Trail for emergency services,” Berry said.

The plan is to focus on broadband service on the Virginia Creeper Trail from Damascus to the Grayson County line at Whitetop Station, according to Berry.

The Mendota Trail Plan calls for ensuring that the Mendota Trail is covered from trestle #4 to Mendota Road.

Ernest & Young should contact service providers on behalf of the county.

“And those people know players for fiber and cell,” Berry said.

The company could also negotiate on behalf of Washington County to apply for federal grants to install such services, Berry said.

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