Grant Sought To Provide Broadband To More Areas

Broadband, high speed internet service may be extended to several unserved areas in Rockbridge and Bath counties through a planned new regional initiative.

The Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission has applied for a $17.8 million competitive broadband grant through the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.

Grant funding of $2.2 million is being sought from VATI. BARC Connects, private partner in the venture, would provide an 88 percent match, or $15.6 million. Each of the counties would contribute $4,000.

“We’re excited about this,” said Sam Crickenberger, Rockbridge County’s director of community development, in relaying the grant application news Monday to the Board of Supervisors. “There are areas of the county that this could really benefit.”

BARC is proposing to deploy 314 miles of gigabyte last-mile-fiber infrastructure – 111 miles through Rockbridge County and 203 through Bath County. Crickenberger said the project would provide fiber-to-the-premise service to 928 residences (462 in Rockbridge County) and 157 businesses (31 in Rockbridge County) considered unserved by the Virginia Center for Innovative Technologies.

The project, he continued, would leverage BARC’s existing network operations center to expand broadband service in the two counties that are part of a growing fiber network that serves over 1,000 subscribers to date, including all 12 public schools in the region.

Unserved areas in Rock-bridge County that are being targeted include Vesuvius, Big Hill, Effinger, South Buffalo, Glasgow and Buck Hill. Bath County’s unserved areas eyed are Warm Springs and Millboro. In constructing the fiber to these remote areas, fiber-to-the-premise would be available to another 1,165 residences and businesses along the routes but outside the VATI project area.

The grant application, said Rockbridge County Administrator Spencer Suter, “came together really quickly. … Realistically, there may not be enough money available [in this round of funding] to complete this project. But it puts us in a lot better position [to secure funding] next year.”

“This is part of a larger initiative on the governor’s part to bring high speed internet to rural areas,” said Crickenberger.

“It would really help my district,” remarked Buffalo supervisor John Higgins.

The News-Gazette

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