Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced on March 29 more than $4.9 million in grants to extend broadband services to areas that are currently unserved by any broadband provider. As a result of these grants, roughly 15,000 households and 300 business will gain access to broadband services.
The grants, which were made through the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI), will fund 11 projects across 12 counties in Virginia. The projects were selected via a competitive process and a statement from Northam’s office said that the process involved “evaluating each project for demonstrated need and benefit for the community, applicant readiness and capacity, and the cost and leverage of the proposed project.”
“In our 21st-century economy, broadband connectivity is tied to every facet of our daily lives, from education to business to health care,” 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 VATI program is a state-funded program managed by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. A statement from Northam’s office explained that 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.” The grant funding goes to help provide “last-mile” services in unserved areas of Virginia. The Governor’s Office noted that the state budget currently allocates $19 million in FY2020 to the VATI program.
“Slow, sporadic or limited broadband services present significant challenges for businesses looking to locate in Virginia’s rural communities,” said Virginia 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.”