Sunday, November 27, 2022

Contract-free $20 internet on its way to Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH — A Florida-based internet company is looking to launch a pilot program that would give some city residents high-speed services at low costs.

Introduced during an informal city council session on Tuesday by councilperson Ben Davenport, executives from Wildfire5g pitched their project to the council.

“We look at this as a mission from our company to be significant in each household, in each community, one person and one household at a time,” said CEO Dave Deming. “We think being significant and having a positive impact will lead to success.”

In Virginia Beach, the company will first set up services in the Lake Edwards and Campus East neighborhoods.

Originally developed under the Rural Broadband Initiative, the program aims to bring internet to underserved and unserved residents, Deming said. Deming said the pilot program was developed in conjunction with Microsoft over the past year to provide inexpensive, high-speed internet to regions across the country.

Not only are costs low, but the program boasts speeds of up to 100 megabits per second and offers a “protected” solution, an option that filters out what Deming refers to as “adult material.”

“This is very important as you get into school districts as they find a tremendous cost savings having this filtered out right from the source,” Deming said.

Customers would also be able to access their internet outside of their homes by using a “roving” feature. The option works similarly to a wireless hotspot, Deming said.

Wildfire5g has already launched a similar project in Dalton, Ga., covering 200-square-miles and providing internet access to 79,000 people.

Hampton Roads would be the company’s initial extension of the project from northwest Georgia.

Deming said the company uses hybrid networks to deliver the low-cost, contract-free services to residents, using a variety of fiber and antenna systems.

“What we do is we hook up the fiber to the tower location and we install our antenna system and then that transmits a radio frequency signal throughout the community,” said Wildfire5g engineer Ed York. “On each customer’s house that would like the service, we install a small antenna. That signal catches it and brings it inside the house and our Wi-Fi coverage fills the entire house.”

In low-density communities that fiber is not easy to reach, the company will utilize TV whitespace, which can broadcast a signal up to 8 miles, bridging rural and urban communities.

The pilot program would help to eliminate the homework gap by giving every student a free account.

“There’s no reason a student can’t go home, take one free account on their device and use it at home,” York said. “Work with teachers in each school district as well. We have to close, eliminate and eradicate the homework gap.”

The company said they’ll also work with residents that don’t use traditional banks by creating a storefront customers can visit to pay their monthly bills.

Deming said pilot locations will be delivered between the end of the year and early 2018, and if they launch in Virginia Beach, they hope to expand to surrounding cities as well.

“We want high-speed, affordable broadband access to as many people as we can touch,” Deming said.

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