Broadband Expansion Initiative Updates

August 23, 2019

The Commonwealth Connect Coalition met on July 24 in Williamsburg to provide the latest updates in the effort to empower Virginia communities to reach functionally universal broadband coverage. As part of this process, the Coalition released a “Broadband Toolkit,” which is a set of documents including a step-by-step guide, model solicitation, and example RFPs/RFIs intended to support local leaders on the path to broadband access. VACo staff submitted comments as part of the drafting process. The Coalition also has a new website which provides information on the work of Commonwealth Connect, planning, funding opportunities, relevant legislation, and more – www.commonwealthconnect.virginia.gov.

As previously reported, the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI) FY2020 grant round public notices are posted online and can be viewed on DHCD’s website. DHCD is encouraging providers (ISPs) who may take issue with a potential project to reach out to the applicants well before the September 3 application deadline. By communicating now, projects can potentially be changed, and challenges can be avoided. Applicants who have questions can reach out to the VATI team anytime at vati@dhcd.virginia.gov.

For more information on VATI, including Program Guidelines and Criteria and an archived How to Apply Webinar, go to https://www.dhcd.virginia.gov/virginia-telecommunication-initiative-vati.

Appalachian Power and Dominion have begun a pilot program allowing them to partner with localities and provide “middle mile” fiber to unserved areas of the state. This program has the potential to significantly reduce the cost for rural broadband deployment and we encourage both ISPs and localities to reach out to the folks listed below. The Coalition is strongly encouraging potential VATI or Tobacco Commission applicants to consider utilizing this program. Contact information for Appalachian Power and Dominion can be found below:

· Amanda Cox, Appalachian Power – accox@aep.com
· Nate Frost, Dominion – Nathan.j.frost@dominionenergy.com

Dominion Energy recently released a Request for Information (RFI) for localities and internet service providers (ISPs) pertaining to this initiative. The RFI and more information on the pilot program can be found here and here respectively. We encourage interested applicants to review it. Submissions are due Monday, September 9, 2019.

Lastly, VACo has partnered with VML and VCTA Broadband Association of Virginia to host a Broadband Summit on September 5 as an opportunity to hear from local government officials and industry leaders about broadband in Virginia. The event will be held at the Richmond Marriott (500 E. Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23219). Registration will open at 9 a.m. Programming will run 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Topics to be covered include: grant programming and assistance opportunities, new technologies made possible with broadband, successful local government industry partnerships, opportunities for expanded broadband access for school children and how broadband enhances economic development opportunities across Virginia. More information and registration can be found here.

VACo Contact: Joe Lerch, AICP and Jeremy R. Bennett

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