During a budget work session April 30, the Nelson County Board of Supervisors discussed what the future of the county’s broadband authority might look like.

With the transfer of the middle mile network earlier in the year and the fact that cell towers are the property of the county, County Administrator Steve Carter said it might be worth more consideration to see if the duties of the Nelson County Broadband Authority could be absorbed by the board of supervisors.

“I’m not sure you need two boards to decide the future of broadband. This board [of supervisors] can probably do that,” Carter said. “I’m certainly not suggesting you rush into it today, but it’s something to think about.”

Previously operated by the Nelson County Broadband Authority, it was announced that operations of the middle mile were transferred to Firefly Fiber Broadband in February.

The middle mile is a fiber-optic network stretching dozens of miles throughout Nelson County.

Jesse Rutherford, East District supervisor and chair of the broadband authority, said he believes the authority still is necessary for the time being.

“It’s all about getting to these unreached areas. My priority is to see that the unreached and underserved areas in Nelson get internet access,” he said.

He said additional coverage could be provided through either cell towers or expansion of fiber optic network.

He also said keeping the two boards as separate entities keeps the focus strictly on broadband.

“What I don’t want to have happen is dilute the importance of broadband by combining the two boards. The one thing that is nice about having the broadband authority is it strictly has one purpose,” Rutherford said.

If supervisors chose to merge the two boards, the process could take several months before it is realized. Rutherford said more discussion would be needed before any decision could be made.

However, a potential benefit to merging the two boards is future projects or actions relating to broadband or internet access could be made easier by removing the back and forth between the two boards.

“That’s one of the benefits ... everything gets a little more simplified, and I understand that,” Rutherford said.

Central District Supervisor Ernie Reed supported future consideration of the board of supervisors absorbing the duties of the broadband authority.

The Nelson County Broadband Authority meets quarterly.

Reach Cropper at (434) 385-5522.

Nick Cropper covers Nelson County. Reach him at (434) 385-5522.

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