Valley-based Virginia Air Networks will begin offering wireless internet service targeted at Crozet’s rural area residents who have difficulty getting service.
“We’re offering it for anyone who has trouble, people who can’t get Comcast or CenturyLink,” said company vice president Joe Jones. “Some locations will still be impossible, but we’re looking to get everyone we can.”
The company now offers service in Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah, Page, Rockingham and Warren Counties, with Albemarle and Nelson as its next territories.
“My goal is to cover Virginia,” said Jones expansively. He expects to have service in western Albemarle within three months.
“Right now we’re trying to poll the [Crozet] area for where the need is. I want to move here [Jones is a huge U.Va. fan—he has a crossed sabers tattoo] and so I want the service available.”
The company has set up a website for our area—albemarlebroadband.com—for prospective customers to fill out a form identifying their locations.
“I’ve been in IT [information technology] for 20 years,” Jones said. “I had a customer who wasn’t receiving internet service like he wanted. He said, ‘Let’s do this.’ He’s passionate about the IT world.”
And so Darin Hockman became Jones’s partner.
“He sees the need and he was a customer of mine in the IT service business. It started in Frederick and Shenandoah Counties. Our aspirations have blossomed. We’re trying to serve the rural counties. We are very customer-service-oriented. Someone will always answer the phone.”
The pair began in late 2017, first covering the town of Strasburg.
“We’re scaling up in a rapid way. We’re looking for spaces that are large coverage and then working to fill in the gaps. They co-locate on existing towers. “Now we’re strictly internet, but we’re working on adding TV and phone service. It took us our first year to build infrastructure. We own a few towers in the Valley, but mainly we co-locate in existing ones.
“Our network can handle quite a bit of users,” said Jones. “We offer three plans, from 15 megabites for $59.99 a month to 50 megs for $139.99 per month. If you’re in the gaming world then you would need the 50-meg plan.”
A small router goes in the customer’s house and a small, seven-inch antenna dish about the size of a dessert plate will be installed outside, depending on where the signal is best.
“We are not affected by storms,” he noted. “I’ve had the service since day one and I’ve been out once because an ice storm knocked out electrical power.
“We’re working on a colocation tower in the area.” Jones said service for western Albemarle and northern Nelson counties will require three towers. “We usually have good reception within 10 miles of a tower.”