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Existing Services

Identify ISPs:  In order to understand possible options it is recommended that communities identify current broadband services and infrastructure.  Knowing where the closest middle mile project is located or if there is fiber-optic cable in or near one’s community is important in the planning and assessment process. Virginia's Broadband Team (the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), Virginia Tech's Center for Geospatial Information Technology (CGIT), and Virginia Geographic Information Network (VGIN)) has developed a Broadband Availability Map to assist in the process. ISPs can be classified in a couple of ways:

  • By their retail service footprint:  There may be one or more ISPs within the community. In addition, there may be ISPs that serve adjacent areas and may be interested in serving additional areas; lastly, there may be regional ISPs that may not be adjacent, but who have services not too distant from the target community and may be convinced to expand to the target area. Communities should identify all ISPs that fit one of these descriptions.
  • By the type of service they sell: some ISPs may be focused exclusively on retail services (selling directly to the consumer). Other ISPs (e.g. the new middle mile projects) may exist to provide cost effective wholesale services to an existing or new ISP. Some retail ISPs may also sell wholesale Internet services.

In identifying ISPs, it is important to include fixed wireless providers (WISPs). While this sector is still maturing, there is an increasing number of WISPs that are very agile and provide high speeds and good quality services. Mobile wireless, on the other hand, while a highly desirable service, at this point is not generally considered an alternative to a dedicated broadband service due to issues with reliability, costs and usage caps. Some of these limitations may be addressed in the near future. Due to issues with quality, cost, and technological limitations, satellite providers are not usually considered a preferred option when Internet activities require low latency (VOIP, virtual private networks, live video) or high volume data throughput.