Clarke County residents have numerous options for getting high-speed internet access in their homes. While there is no single provider that covers 100% of the County's residents, multiple providers offer a variety of services at varying costs to most of the County. Unfortunately, a small number of residents have a very limited selection of providers to choose from due to their location within the County. All of the services are provided by private sector companies. Residents must check with each of the providers directly to find out whether a particular provider can accomodate their needs. The purpose of this article is to explain to citizens their options for high speed internet , list contact information for providers, and identify some of the advantages and disadvantages of the various internet access options available in the County.
There are two broad categories of service providers - wireline and wireless. The two wireline providers in Clarke County are Verizon (DSL) and Comcast (Cable). Wireline providers will only provide high speed internet access where they have installed cable infrastructure. Though Verizon wireline telephone service is theoretically available to every resident in the County, with "DSL" sevice over this infrastructure, DSL technology has distance limitations that restrict the service to approximately 3 miles from the "Central Office" of Verizon's infrastructure. Verizon has two "Central Offices" in Clarke, one in Boyce and one in Berryville. Therefore, residents within 3 miles of either location may be able to receive DSL service from Verizon. Comcast Cable, on the other hand, has very limited cable infrastructure outside of Boyce and Berryville. The cost structure for both cable and DSL internet access are similar.
There are several technologies and companies that fall into the wireless category of service providers:Cellular Broadband, Wireless (WiFi), and Satellite. These technologies have the potential to reach the most rural sections of Clarke County, though local terrain will dictate whether and which providers may be able to service your home.
Lack of ubiquitous Broadband access in rural areas is a nationwide problem. Virginia Tech has started a program to accurately identify well served, underserved, and unserved areas in the Commonwealth. We encourage you to participate in their survey by visiting their site at http://acceleratevirginia.org and taking the speed test.
Keep in mind, both the charges and the services listed below are subject to change. You will need to confirm with the provider you are considering.
Wireline Service Providers:
$25-40 per month and up depending on service level/options/contract length.
Check for service availablity to your home.
$30-$90 per month and up depending on service level/options/contract length
Contact the local Comcast Service center to find out if Cable service is available to you:
Winchester, VA 22602
Wireless Service Providers:
When a rural resident is not within Verizon or Comcast's service area, their remaining options are wireless. The costs are very similar amongst the various types of wireless internet service providers, typically $60-$80 per month (and up), often with initial hardware costs of $200 - $400.
Network "latency" (time lag, or delay) is the biggest drawback of this type of service. Service area is close to universal.
Residents with satellite TV service should check with their providers to see what options may exist for internet access through their satellite company.
Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP)s, have perhaps the best bandwidth speeds/ cost and are a good option if they can provide you a signal. Terrain is the dominant problem that keeps people from being able to get this service. Antenna locations dictate whether a WISP can serve you, and the various WISPs have different antenna locations. It is essential to contact our local WISPs to determine if they can provide connectivity for you. Often they will need to come on site to your residence to determine service availability.
Cell phone carriers can provide internet access to residences over their cellular networks. If you can get a decent cell signal at your house, you can probably get reasonable internet access speeds through cell carriers. These speeds are also likely to improve in the next year or two as cellphone carriers upgrade their networks from "3G" to "4G" technologies. One characteristic of mobile broadband access is that carriers currently impose a "bandwidth cap" (total monthly data throughput), that other providers do not have. Providers are now offering 5 gigabyte per month bandwidth plans for $60/month, and 10 GB per month plans for $80/month.