A broadband project in Patrick County was among the 12 announced last week by Gov. Ralph Northam.
Patrick County’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) Director Bryce Simmons completed the application for the grant, according to Steve Terry, chairman of the Broadband Committee.
“Patrick County is very lucky to have been awarded $798,283 from the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative for Phase 1 of the Patrick County Broadband Expansion Project,” Simmons said.
“The county’s internet service partner, RiverStreet Networks, has been a pleasure to work with and has provided the expert guidance needed to move this project forward. Additional funding has been provided by Patrick County Tourism, the Economic Development Authority, and RiverStreet Networks for an estimated project cost of $1.3 million.
He added that the Patrick County EDA contributed $40,000 of the local match required for the project. Patrick County Tourism is providing $60,000, and RiverStreet Networks will provide a total of $440,450, including $100,000 in monetary match. The remainder will be in the form of an in-kind match, and include equipment, he added.
Terry said that RiverStreet has also committed to further contributions “when we are ready to apply for additional grants and advance to the second phase of the project. “
“In the meantime, contract negotiations will begin with the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) for Phase 1 and the county is poised to submit a grant application to the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to fund a comprehensive broadband study for all of the Patrick County,” Simmons said.
The project is expected to begin in the Patrick Springs and Meadows of Dan areas later this spring, Terry said.
“It will take more than one year to complete this project,” Terry said, adding that “our hilly and forested terrain presents a real challenge, but we intend to bring high speed internet to as many of our citizens as possible.”
The grant to Patrick was among a package totaling more than $18.3 million awarded through the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI) to support the projects, according to a release from Northam.
The projects leverage over $35 million in local and private matching funds and will connect approximately 36,000 households, including thousands of businesses and community anchor institutions. The VATI program provides targeted funding to extend service to areas that are presently unserved by any broadband provider.
“Broadband is a necessity for communities to attract business, for students to use educational resources, and for Virginians to receive healthcare through telemedicine,” said Northam. “My administration is committed to expanding broadband access to every part of Virginia, so that all of our citizens have access to the opportunities that connectivity make possible.”
Northam’s proposed budget adds an additional $16 million a year on top of the $19 million allocated annually last year, bringing the total investment to $35 million each year to further expand broadband in the Commonwealth.
The VATI program is a state-funded program administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (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.
“VATI is a key resource we are utilizing to expand broadband access to all Virginians,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “This funding will contribute significantly to the number of residents across the Commonwealth that are able to live and work more efficiently thanks to broadband connectivity.”
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.
DHCD allocated more than $18.3 million to eligible applicants to provide “last-mile” services to unserved areas of Virginia and received 39 applications from 34 localities requesting $43.6 million in funding.