People in Broadway and Fulks Run concerned about internet connectivity issues

Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 6:27 PM EDT
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BROADWAY, Va. (WHSV) - A number of people in the Broadway and Fulks Run area report that they are having problems with internet connectivity. Shentel is set to discontinue its Beam internet service at the end of November which is adding to the concern.

“If we lose Beam we will basically not have a reliable fast internet connection which will affect everything in our home from my home-based freelance business all the way to my daughter’s school work,” said Mary Jo Veurink, who lives outside of Broadway.

Beam internet service through Shentel has been reliable for customers in the Broadway area, but in late September Shentel sent a letter to customers saying service would be discontinued at the end of November. The company cited changes to the broadband landscape.

“Beam is a wonderful source of internet and to just drop it and not have anybody have another option it just feels like we’re all sort of left out in the cold and going back in time,” said Veurink. “It’s gonna be like it was several years ago when a lot of us had no options for an internet connection which in 2022 seems a little ridiculous. We realize the County is working on trying to get internet to everyone but it’s a slow process.”

Losing Beam is even more worrisome for customers in the Broadway area because those who do not have Beam service say the other options have not been great.

“We’re kind of stuck with nothing because there’s no DSL available, there’s no Comcast. There’s nothing except Hughesnet and DirecTV. The latency on Hughesnet and DirecTV is just terrible,” said Zach Roberts, who lives in the Broadway area.

Roberts worries that a lack of reliable internet options in the area puts those living there at a disadvantage.

“If we would get into another situation where schools are locked down and we need internet from the home to do Zoom calls that makes it very difficult. I hope and pray we don’t get to that point again but if we did it puts us at a disadvantage and I think it’s a safety issue,” he said.

Others in the area use T-Mobile for their phone and internet service which has had big problems as of late.

“I’ve taken my computer into parking lots in town and used my hotspot there where a tower works in order to do my banking, access my medical records, check my email, that kind of thing,” said Chris Bolgiano, who lives in the Broadway area with her husband Ralph.

Bolgiano and other T-Mobile customers say that cell service that has typically not been an issue has been minimal in the area for the last two weeks.

“It’s like living in 1800. There’s no communication you have to get in your car and go someplace to talk to anyone. We’ve lost our home phone landline. You know, it’s almost frightening,” said Bolgiano.

Roberts and his family had to make the switch from Sprint to T-Mobile when T-Mobile purchased Sprint. He said he’s had similar problems at his home.

“There are dead spots on our street going to our house and then sometimes when you’re inside you’ll click call and it will drop calls because there’s just not enough service,” said Roberts.

The Bolgianos said that unless they want to drive into town, they can currently only get cell service on their roof which is a major concern.

“It could be life threatening or dangerous to a lot of people. If you needed to make a call and there’s a hurricane you can’t get on your roof. Maybe you can’t drive down your driveway because a tree has fallen across it and you can’t even get to town to make a phone call,” said Ralph Bolgiano.

The couple said they haven’t received any answers to what the cause of the problem is.

“We were just given some very vague euphemisms. ‘well we think it’ll be fixed or we hope it’ll be fixed’. Then there’s another service number that we called which we got the same non-answer. I would say evasive on some level,” said Ralph.

T-Mobile sent the following statement regarding the issue to WHSV on Wednesday.

T-Mobile is currently performing upgrades in the area, and we apologize for any impacts some customers may experience. The upgrades are expected to be completed very soon and will provide customers with 5G service.

Chris Kyle, Shentel Vice President of Regulatory and Industry Affairs, did provide the following statement regarding its reasons for discontinuing Beam internet service.

The decision to end Beam service was not easy. We understand the impact the removal of Internet service will have on individuals and families. We invested tens of millions of dollars to ensure that those in need of access to Internet, especially during the height of the pandemic, would have it.

However, at this time, Shentel is transitioning its spectrum in these areas to a national wireless provider that will be able to provide additional wireless broadband coverage. Over the next few weeks, we will provide additional details as our spectrum transition progresses.

We saw ourselves as part of the solution to close the digital divide, and worked in a grant selection process with the Commonwealth to receive funds from the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI) to continue, and even expand this service.

Unfortunately, due to several factors, the grant landscape changed dramatically, and the funds were allocated to fiber providers across our Beam area. We recognize that this is a difficult transition, but it is our understanding that the companies that received grant funding will be installing fiber networks in these areas.

In addition to a new national wireless provider adding wireless broadband service in these areas, it is also our hope that the subsidized fiber companies will be able to provide broadband service so that the communities will have multiple alternatives for their Internet service.

Please visit the Commonwealth Connection map at: https://commonwealth-connection.com/ for the latest information on the grants for fiber service.

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