Gov. Northam announces $2 billion investment to establish near-universal broadband access

Virginia

GOOCHLAND, Va. (WFXR) — On Monday, Gov. Ralph Northam announced new grants that will bring broadband and high-speed internet access to 90% of Virginians, putting the Commonwealth on track to being one of the first states to achieve universal broadband access.

According to a statement released by the governor’s office on Monday, Dec. 13, this dramatic progress is the result of a combination of state, federal, local, and private-sector investments that Virginia has accelerated over the past four years.

Northam says the pandemic highlighted the need for swift and bold action to extend high-speed internet across Virginia, leading him to thank the partners who made this progress possible.

“Broadband access impacts every facet of our daily lives, from education to business to health care,” said Northam. “It’s a necessity for navigating today’s digital world, and this new funding will close Virginia’s digital divide with universal broadband by 2024.”

Since Northam took office in 2018 as the Commonwealth’s first rural governor in a generation, he reportedly set out a clear goal of achieving universal access to broadband within 10 years.

“The goal was bold, as Virginia’s broadband program was investing just $4 million a year and 660,000 Virginians did not have access to high-speed internet,” Monday’s statement said.

Officials say Virginia has invested more than $846 million since 2018 to connect more than 429,000 Virginia homes, businesses, and community anchors to broadband service.

Northam announced back in October that Virginia has received a record number of local and private sector applications to leverage state broadband investments, setting up the Commonwealth to become one of the first states to achieve universal broadband access by 2024.

Monday’s announcement comes as Virginia allocated more than $722 million to provide universal broadband infrastructure in 70 localities, which will close 90 percent of Virginia’s digital divide, according to the governor’s office.

The funding — which comes from the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI) and the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) — will support 35 projects, connecting more than 278,000 households, businesses, and community anchor institutions to high-speed internet, officials say. In addition, the funding will leverage more than $1 billion in private and local investments, pushing the total broadband investment in Virginia above $2 billion over the past four years.

“Virginia and the VATI program continue to be the national model for closing the digital divide and today’s announcement cements our success,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “This round of grants will connect more than 278,550 households/businesses to high-speed internet, ensuring more communities across the Commonwealth have access to the necessities of modern life.”

The Department of Housing and Community Development administers the VATI program, which provides targeted financial assistance to extend broadband service to areas that are currently unserved by a provider. Projects were selected through a competitive process that evaluated each project for demonstrated need and benefit for the community, applicant readiness and capacity, and the cost and leverage of the proposed project. The level of funding awarded is based on the infrastructure needs in the project area.

In this application year, VATI received 57 applications from 84 localities that partnered with 25 internet service providers, requesting more than $943 million in funding. Additional information on VATI is available here.

Statement from Gov. Ralph Northam’s office on Dec. 13, 2021

You can check out a list of the awards for southwest and central Virginia localities below:

  • West Piedmont Planning District Commission and RiverStreet Networks
    • Award: $87,003,888
    • Leveraged: $65,421,347
    • The project will build fiber broadband for 24,641 unserved locations and achieve universal coverage in Amelia, Bedford, Campbell, Charlotte, Nottoway, and Pittsylvania counties when combined with other projects. 
  • Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission and Firefly
    • Award: $79,027,930
    • Leveraged: $208,969,670
    • The project — which was supported by CSX through the Commonwealth Connect Fund — will build fiber broadband for 36,283 unserved locations and achieve universal coverage in Albemarle, Amherst, Appomattox, Buckingham, Campbell, Cumberland, Fluvanna, Goochland, Greene, Louisa, Madison, Nelson, and Powhatan counties when combined with other projects.
  • Southside Planning District Commission and EMPOWER Broadband
    • Award: $69,431,635
    • Leveraged: $84,677,555
    • The project will build fiber broadband for 11,527 unserved locations and achieve universal coverage in Brunswick, Charlotte, Halifax, and Mecklenburg counties when combined with other projects.
  • New River Valley Regional Commission and Gigabeam and All Points Broadband
    • Award: $68,355,355
    • Leveraged: $67,370,008
    • The project will build fiber broadband for 19,966 unserved locations and achieve universal coverage in Bland, Montgomery, and Pulaski counties. 
  • Mount Rogers Planning District Commission and Point Broadband
    • Award: $65,883,228
    • Leveraged: $33,052,600
    • The project will build fiber broadband for 27,450 unserved locations and achieve universal coverage in Smyth, Washington, and Wythe counties. 
  • West Piedmont Planning District Commission and RiverStreet Networks
    • Award: $33,571,073
    • Leveraged: $61,794,113
    • The project will build fiber broadband for 10,056 unserved locations and achieve universal coverage in Franklin, Henry, and Patrick counties when combined with other projects. 
  • Franklin County and Shentel
    • Award: $9,832,456
    • Leveraged: $14,722,315
    • The project will build fiber and wireless broadband for 3,508 unserved locations and achieve universal coverage in Franklin County when combined with other projects. 
  • Bedford County and Shentel
    • Award: $8,642,313
    • Leveraged: $17,546,515
    • The project will build fiber and wireless broadband for 5,565 unserved locations and achieve universal coverage in Bedford County when combined with other projects. 
  • Bedford County and ZiTEL
    • Award: $8,523,908.31
    • Leveraged: $10,208,347.39
    • The project will build fiber broadband for 4,114 unserved locations and achieve universal coverage in Bedford County when combined with other projects.
  • Bath-Highland Network Authority and MGW
    • Award: $7,876,800
    • Leveraged: $3,113,200
    • The project will build fiber broadband for 2,470 unserved locations and achieve universal coverage in Bath and Highland counties.
  • Campbell County and Shentel
    • Award: $5,443,000
    • Leveraged: $10,107,617
    • The project will build fiber and wireless broadband for 3,509 unserved locations and achieve universal coverage in Campbell County when combined with other projects.
  • Botetourt County and Lumos
    • Award: $3,084,796
    • Leveraged: $4,824,937
    • The project will build fiber broadband for 1,901 unserved locations and achieve universal coverage in Botetourt County. 
  • Roanoke County and Craig Botetourt Electric Cooperative 
    • Award: $1,581,584
    • Leveraged: $1,646,138
    • The project will build fiber broadband for 495 unserved locations and achieve universal coverage in Roanoke County when combined with other projects. 
  • Roanoke County and Cox Communications  
    • Award: $1,535,264
    • Leveraged: $1,597,927
    • The project will build fiber broadband for 396 unserved locations and achieve universal coverage in Roanoke County when combined with other projects. 
  • Roanoke County and Shentel
    • Award: $490,000
    • Leveraged: $510,000
    • The project will build fiber broadband for 213 unserved locations and achieve universal coverage in Roanoke County when combined with other projects. 
  • Roanoke County and B2X Online
    • Award: $170,609
    • Leveraged: $177,572
    • The project will build a wireless broadband network to connect 290 locations and achieve universal coverage in Roanoke County when combined with other projects. 
  • West Piedmont Planning District Commission and Charter Communications
    • Award: $1,415,290
    • Leveraged: $2,124,671
    • The project will build fiber broadband for 690 unserved locations and achieve universal coverage in Patrick County when combined with other projects. 
  • Floyd County and Citizens
    • Award: $1,310,267
    • Leveraged: $1,111,725
    • The project will build fiber broadband for 723 unserved locations and achieve universal coverage in Floyd County.

To check out the other projects around the Commonwealth that are receiving awards, follow this link.

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