The Voice of America recently did a story on Loudoun County, calling it the place where the Internet lives.  There are more than 18 million square feet of data centers in and around Ashburn, and that development is headed west.   Buddy Rizer, the executive director of economic development for Loudoun County told VOA reporter Dora Mekouar,

“It’s amazing when you think about the amount of fiber that’s in the ground…Both sides of the road pretty much have fiber troughs in them. And now we’re putting some fiber in the middle of the roads as well. “We want to continue to build on that fiber network.”  That’s a good thing for Loudoun, eastern Loudoun at least, but the state of internet connectivity in western Loudoun is poor to fair at best–and that is a sorry state of affairs.

Rather than take substantive action to get our rural areas access to reliable broadband Internet, we get lip service from the Loudoun Board of Supervisors, where the chair recently said that Internet connectivity should be considered a utility.  Her statement was part of an announcement for the installation of “dark fiber” intended to wire schools in western Loudoun.  Our supervisor ran on the platform of Internet access for rural Loudoun that sounded good,  but we are still waiting, although he recently said something about us maybe having service within 10 years.  Rumor has it that the fiber currently being installed on 611 in St. Louis will supply Banneker School with solid Internet service, but homeowners (taxpayers) are not included, and will still be stuck with meager radio, satellite, or cellular based solutions that work, sometimes.

There are Internet groups on broadband in Loudoun where folks talk about the best way to get 5mb service, and most comments in articles on the topic in the online local media are filled with trolls who mock those of us in western Loudoun –”It was your choice to live out there, deal with it…”, or making the issue political–please, Internet service should not be linked to one’s political affiliation!  All of this is a symptom of the lack of leadership from the BOS, even as they attend receptions and cut ribbons for each new, fiber-served data center added in eastern Loudoun.

I was one of the earliest customers of one of the local wireless services, which was able to provide 1mb service, sometimes.  In the early days it was acceptable, and I was able to really build my music collection when few others used the service.  As time went on and more people were added, the service slowed, I stopped downloading music, monthly fees were increased, and by 8 PM each night, there was often no service at all, despite the nearly $100/month fee charged.  Fed up with paying for no service to a company, we switched to a fine small company that has actually given us decent bandwidth for streaming, but the speeds are nothing close to what folks get east of route 15, and I worry what happens when our new provider gets too many clients.

With the COVIC-19 pandemic, the need for solid bandwidth in western Loudoun has become even more critical as many people telework and school kids take their classes online.  The emergency has reinforced the notion that utility status for broadband is warranted.  I know the cost of broadband solutions for western Loudoun could be expensive, even though mandatory in these present days. But hasn’t the time come, especially when there are trillion-dollar bills being signed by the President for COVID-19 relief, for us to be included in the 21st century?

As technology changes, perhaps this fiber is not the answer for western Loudoun after all.  Cellular technology has come a long way, and will continue to improve, so maybe cellular is a better solution for the rural villages, hamlets, and farms.  I’m ok with that, as long as something happens soon, and why shouldn’t it– Loudoun County is touted as a Global Center of the Internet and yet a substantial segment of the County has nothing but slow, poor Internet service worse than places I have been in the third world.

Garcia Grisman Music Series

In 1991, the landmark Garcia/Grisman was released on mandolinist David Grisman’s Acoustic label.  Grisman has been a key player on several of the Grateful Dead’s most beloved tunes and had created the jazz influenced bluegrass genre dubbed Dawg music; and Garcia held acoustic and bluegrass music close to his heart.  This album gave us the best of both of their affinities–trippy, organic, intricate, and soulful melodies with Garcia’s raspy vocals, which meld perfectly with the acoustic instrumentals.  The disc sold well, and was nominated for a Grammy that year–high praise for a couple if Bay Area old hippies who liked to smoke, eat pizza, and play great music.  Eventually they toured and a documentary film, Grateful Dawg, was made of the collaboration–well worth finding and watching.

In the following years, Garcia and Grisman produced several more discs, including the fabulous Shady Grove (with the great flatpicker Tony Rice), Not For Kids Only, the Miles Davis inspired So What, I’ve Been All Around This World, the Grateful Dawg Soundtrack, and the notorious Pizza Tapes.  During a two-day session with Rice, Grisman ordered pizza, and the delivery guy swiped some cassettes of some tunes that Garcia had left on the coffee table.  Copies were rapidly made and the tracks proliferated through the Grateful Dead community.  Fortunately, we can all hear these tunes on this fine release.

Go one your favorite streaming service and track down these releases, they will keep you grooving for many hours, and you will always come back for more.

Steve Chase is listening to Grateful Dawg at home in Unison