Governor Ralph Northam last week announced over $4.9 million in grants through the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI) for 11 projects within 12 Virginia counties, including Floyd. The VATI program provides targeted funding to extend service to areas that are presently unserved by any broadband provider.
“In our 21st century economy, broadband connectivity is tied to every facet of our daily lives, from education to business to health care—that’s why making high-speed internet available to every Virginian, in every region of the Commonwealth is a top priority for my administration,” said Governor Northam. “This funding will help to close the digital divide in Virginia by putting in place the necessary infrastructure to expand affordable and reliable broadband service to currently unserved rural communities.”
The local project area is located in Copper Hill. The grant amount is $348,018. Amanda Love, Public Relations Director for the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) in Richmond, explained, “Floyd County has partnered with Citizens to construct an approximately 14-mile FTTP network in the Copper Hill area of Floyd County. This project will provide access to 307 serviceable units and six businesses, including Apple Ridge Farm. Speeds of up to 1 gig will be available once the project is completed. This project includes a match of $468,709.”
The VATI program is a state-funded program administered by DHCD. The goal of VATI is to create strong, competitive communities throughout the Commonwealth by preparing those communities to build, utilize, and capitalize on telecommunications infrastructure. DHCD allocated grant funding to eligible applicants to provide “last-mile” services to unserved areas of Virginia. The state budget currently includes $19 million in Fiscal Year 2020 for the VATI program.
“Slow, sporadic or limited broadband services present significant challenges for businesses looking to locate in Virginia’s rural communities,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “Through these grants, we are making another step forward towards expanding access to quality broadband internet throughout the Commonwealth.”
Projects were selected through a competitive process evaluating 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 areas.
An estimated 15,000 households, and 300 businesses, and community anchors will have broadband service available due to these grant awards, along with the public-private partnership involved in each project. Thirty-one applications requesting more than $10.9 million in funding were received. This year’s funding leverages $9.2 million in local and private sector matching funds.