Government suspends company's broadband grant
Feb 08, 2013 (Daily Press (Newport News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The federal government has suspended a $18.9 million federal stimulus grant awarded to Buggs Island Telephone Cooperative, the company slated to make high-speed Internet service available in rural Isle of Wight and Surry counties.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration handed down the suspension on Jan. 4, ordering the Mecklenburg County-based company to cease work and submit a corrective action plan by March, said agency spokeswoman Heather Phillips. Buggs Island has already filed that document, she said.
"Buggs Island was not making adequate progress in meeting its milestones, in part due to technology issues it is still working out," Phillips said. The agency has also requested the company's financial records and staffing plan for review.
Two years ago, Buggs Island received the federal stimulus money and $3.9 million from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission to help fund a $25 million network across 15 rural Southside Virginia counties. Other localities included in Buggs Island's coverage area are Franklin, Emporia and Southampton, Amelia, Brunswick, Charlotte, Cumberland, Greensville, Halifax, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Prince Edward and Sussex counties.
Multiple calls to Buggs Island Telephone over the last two weeks have not been returned.
Last August, the company's general manager Mickey Sims said he expected to launch broadband service by Oct. 1, 2012. But in the company's latest quarterly progress report, filed with the NTIA on Dec. 12, Sims reported the project was only 80 percent complete.
Surry County, which in 2010 created its own Broadband Authority, is not letting snags with Buggs Island delay its plans. In March, the county will issue a Request for Proposals soliciting another wireless service provider that can lease county-owned broadband infrastructure to provide Internet service to subscribers, said county planning director Rhonda Mack.
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