LENOWISCO Planning District Commission Executive Director Duane Miller said the grant, announced Wednesday by Gov. Ralph Northam, will allow the start of the agency’s Regional Broadband Expansion Program into the Ocoonita, Fleenortown and Right Poor Valley communities.
Northam said the award is part of an $18.3 million package of 12 grants through the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative to match public and private funds to connect 36,000 “last-mile” households, businesses and community institutions to broadband service in areas without a service provider.
The LENOWISCO grant is one of three awarded to far Southwest Virginia. The Cumberland Plateau Planning District received almost $227,000 for service expansion in Buchanan County, and Grayson County received $1.84 million to expand broadband service across that county.
Miller said that Scott County Telephone Cooperative will handle fiberoptic cable installation to the three Lee County areas in phase one of the project. Contract negotiations for the work are expected to begin before the end of January, he said.
“It’s the first time with this source of funds that we’ve been able to do a project like this,” Miller said. “It’s always good when you can expand service to areas that need it.”
“Broadband is a necessity for communities to attract business, for students to use educational resources, and for Virginians to receive healthcare through telemedicine,” Northam said Wednesday during a ceremony to present a grant check to Charles City County for its broadband project.
“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 makes possible,” Northam said.
“I am glad that these homes will be receiving broadband service, which will greatly help those residents’ abilities to access the internet as well as other services, such as telemedicine,” said First District Va. Delegate Terry Kilgore. “I am grateful that the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative supported this program to provide greater broadband service to Lee County.”
The state Department of Housing and Community Development administers the VATI grant program, and Northam said his budget proposals include adding $16 million to the $19 million annual budget for VATI.