Get the latest on federal and state actions to increase access to broadband

May 19, 2021

Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund Webinar – Through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), Virginia localities will be receiving an estimated $1.6 billion in federal funding. Uses for this flexible funding include investments in broadband infrastructure. VACo has heard from many counties who are interested in using these funds to expedite universal broadband coverage in unserved communities – both in rural and urban settings. Therefore, the Virginia Local Broadband Network (VLBN), in partnership with the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo), the Virginia Municipal League (VML), and the Virginia Association of Planning District Commissions (VAPDC) will be hosting a webinar to discuss this funding and broadband. There will be two opportunities to participate – June 9th at 11am and again at 4pm. If you or members of your team would like to attend, please register here.

Emergency Broadband Benefits Program The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced that the $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit Program launched on May 12. This program will provide a $50/month ($75/month on tribal lands) subsidy for the cost of internet service for select individuals for 6 months. The list of Virginia’s participating broadband providers can be found – here. Eligible households can sign up for the program directly through their broadband provider or online. For more information and to sign up, visit the program website – https://getemergencybroadband.org/

FY 2022 Draft Virginia Telecommunications Initiative Guidelines – As previously reported, the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is in the midst of reviewing the draft guidelines proposed for the FY2022 round of Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) funding. VACo submitted formal comments applauding efforts to increase flexibility for local governments in their efforts to utilize the program to achieve functional universal coverage in their jurisdictions, as well as noting some potential concerns regarding proposed requirements for applications that incorporate Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) coverage. VACo’s letter to DHCD can be read here.

For FY 2022, VATI will provide $49.7 million in funds to eligible applicants. Whether or not the General Assembly elects to use additional state allocated ARPA funds to supplement the VATI program or support broadband expansion through other means remains a distinct possibility. This will likely be a topic of discussion leading up to, and during, the next special session of the General Assembly, likely to convene later this summer at a date to be determined. Demand for additional state funding continues to be high and exceeds available funds. In FY 2021, VATI received applications seeking $105 million in funding. VACo continues to support additional state and federal funding for broadband and encourages counties to be mindful of both the potential for additional dedicated state ARPA funding and the ability of county governments to delay obligation of local ARPA funds until December 31, 2024.

In addition to the following events and deadlines below, VACo intends to collaborate with the Broadband Association of Virginia (VCTA) to host a joint conference later this year between members of local government and the broadband industry. More information will be shared as it becomes available.

Upcoming Events and Deadlines:

May 20 – Commonwealth Connect Coalition Meeting
2pm – 3pm
Webinar link (video and audio) – meet.google.com/ymk-awgw-njg
Conference Call (audio) – 937-314-3485  Pin: 138 207 605#

June 17 – VATI How to Apply Webinar
2pm – 4pm

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July 27 – Deadline for Public Notice for VATI Applications

September 14 – VATI Application Deadline

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

 

 

 

 

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