“Yes, broadband is critically important to our economy and future, but at some point in time, we have to be fiscally responsible,” Mahoney said. “Even if you double the take-rate, those are a lot of dollars to spend for people that aren’t taking advantage of the opportunity.”
Internet take-rates likely have improved from 30% due to the coronavirus moving much of daily life online, Hunter said. Furthermore, the cost to provide access is heightened due to the nature of the landscape on which the 315 Roanoke County homes are built, he said.
“These areas that we’re talking about are the toughest of tough geography, and a lot of those reasons are why providers haven’t gone in in the first place,” Hunter said. “It’s not a typical cost-per-passing that the providers normally look at.”
Mahoney said even a 100% internet take-rate would still represent a significant expense of public tax money per residence, but he hinted that might not be as important as bringing modern amenities to rural reaches of Roanoke County.
“The parallel, if you will, is rural electrification from the 1930s,” Mahoney said. “I’m sure in the 1930s, rural electrification didn’t pass the cost-benefit analysis, as another way of looking at it.”
Moving forward, the federal government passed the American Rescue Plan Act in March, setting aside $10 billion for rural broadband expansion, O’Donnell said. Avenues for receiving that funding need to be learned, he said.