Special Report: Rural Internet Access

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JAMES CITY COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — In today’s world, is access to the internet a right or a privilege only for those who can afford it? 

For people living in rural areas, simply setting up online capability to their home can cost thousands of dollars. That is money that one single dad in James City County says he doesn’t have. 

William Marshall has lived in Toano his entire life and is now raising his 9-year-old son, who is in 4th grade and increasingly needs the internet to complete his school work. 

“I think it’s very important. I mean, this is his education we’re talking about,” explained Marshall.

In rural Toano, getting internet access is easier said than done — and the process is not cheap.

Marshall said the first quote he got was around $6,800. The expensive part isn’t the monthly bill, but the set-up needed to run a line to his house. 

Marshall said he tried everything he can think of. He got a Verizon Jetpack — a mobile hotspot device — which didn’t work at his house.

He applied and was approved for Cox’s Connect2Compete, a program that provides internet for $9.95 a month to households with students in need. 

Nearly $10 a month for internet is something Marshall can afford. What he can’t afford is the $3,500 installation fee — something Cox won’t budge on. 

10 On Your Side reached out to Cox. Here’s part of their response:

“Unfortunately, in this specific case, there is no way to reach Mr. Marshall’s home in a cost effective way. Taking into consideration many factors that impact the cost, including proximity to current network infrastructure, distance from the road and franchise agreement requirements, we have provided an estimate to Mr. Marshall in which Cox pays a portion of the build and the homeowner would pay the remaining.”

Marshall is not alone in the struggle to connect.

State lawmakers say 38 percent of rural Virginian’s don’t have access to broadband. 

“Broadband has become just as important today as electricity, as telephones, as highways. It’s a critical infrastructure,” explained Sen. John Edwards (D-Roanoke). 

Edwards has been working on getting a broadband bill through the state legislature for some time now. 

“The private providers are not going to do it that’s why the state needs to assist in doing this,” he said.

Marshall hopes to come up with a solution soon.

In 6th grade, his son will receive a laptop computer from the school. But what good is a laptop for school work when you can’t connect to the internet? 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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