“A lot of things went into this. There’s been a lot of help from the county and a lot of planning. We’re two-thirds into where we’re going and so this building is a good reflection into the quality of what we have going on. I think it’s going to be the model of how we get things done and solve this rural broadband issue,” said RiverStreet President and CEO, Eric Cramer at a recent ribbon cutting of RiverStreet Networks in Danbury.
Cramer said the building, which opened earlier this year was designed to mimic their other retail locations and he was pleased with the finished product.
“This is a network operations center and also serves a retail purpose. We have three ladies working here in the store and we have a technician and someone doing outside sales. Four of those are local and that was important to us. We’re interviewing now for additional local technicians.”
RiverStreet is in the process of engineering a fiber optic network ring along certain areas throughout Stokes County. The network provides fiber optic services to business and residential customers along the selected routes. The company has already completed the engineering process in Danbury and King and is slated to focus on Walnut Cove next.
Cramer said, “In phase one we passed just over 900 customers and that was in the Danbury area. Phase two was in King and that was lit about a month ago and just over another 900. We’re about to start really aggressively pushing construction on the Walnut Cove phase and that should be completed within six months.”
While RiverStreet has kept to its original timeline, Cramer acknowledged there has been frustration for those in the community waiting to receive service.
“We’ve had some people who have been very adamant about getting to them and we understand. It’s a large endeavor and it takes time. It’s been a lot of work in three years.”
Having a retail space in Danbury will help streamline the process and also serves as a marker that RiverStreet is invested in the area, Cramer said.
“We urge people to go to their neighbors and to call us and let us know if they need service. They also can go online and put in their information. The more information we have the sooner we know to build because it will be where the demand is, and where we’re going first.”
Currently, there are around 400 people who have called and Cramer said they’re keeping track of those names and requests.
“We’ll start looking at what phase we’ll start building first. It will be wherever we have the most traction, especially in those pockets near Danbury that were initially identified as not having anything. They’ll probably be the first one we’ll go to because we committed with the funding from the county to go their first,” he said.
Cramer said laying the groundwork for a project of this nature is a monumental task and has garnered interest from our counties. In late 2017, Warren County ordered a $30,000 feasibility study to learn more about high speed internet in rural areas, where it is estimated that fewer than 50 percent of the population has access to broadband service.
“That is partially due to the success of this and it’s something to be proud of. Wilkes is the most connected county in the state and we’re being recognized for that. This project is an extension of it and we hope that the same notoriety and impact that our network in Wilkes has, will come to Stokes.”
Cramer thanked the county commissioners for their support, Senator Shirley Randleman and Representative Kyle Hall, who attended the recent ribbon cutting.
“Former county manager Rick Morris was also a huge proponent and a champion for this and we’re very grateful,” he added. “It’s exciting and we’re on track with our forecast. We’re actively looking for grants, federal and state to help expedite the expansion with the build out. We did secure grants in Wilkes and it’s an achievable goal for this area as well.”
Amanda Dodson may be reached at 336-813-2426.