Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) Releases Draft FY 2022 Guidelines – Comments Due May 17, 2021

May 5, 2021

On April 27, the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) held a stakeholder meeting to discuss the draft guidelines proposed for the FY2022 round of VATI funding. VATI is a state managed program that provides financial assistance to local governments to partner with and supplement construction costs by internet service providers to extend services to areas that are presently unserved by any broadband provider. For FY 2022, VATI will provide $49.7 million in funds to eligible applicants.

During the stakeholder meeting, DHCD staff and members of Governor Northam’s Broadband team reviewed proposed changes to the VATI program guidelines as a result of actions by the General Assembly and staff proposals. Starting this year, VATI will implement a one-year pilot program in which public broadband authorities may apply directly for VATI funds without investment from the private sector. These awards shall not exceed 10 percent of total available VATI funds in FY2022 and applications submitted without a private sector co-applicant will be evaluated alongside other applications. VACo strongly supports this action by the General Assembly to open the program to public internet authorities.

DHCD staff are proposing certain changes to the definition of unserved areas. Under the draft guidelines, for a wireline project, a proposed project area is considered eligible if 10 percent or fewer of serviceable units have access to service with no additional special construction costs from any provider as of the date of the application. For a wireless project, a proposed area is considered eligible if 25 percent or fewer of serviceable units have access to service with no additional special construction costs from any provider as of the date of the application.

Additionally, as a result of awards made under the federal Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), DHCD staff are proposing several changes to take account of these awards. First and foremost, areas with service by satellite providers (such as SpaceX) are not considered served under VATI definitions. Therefore, Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) areas preliminarily awarded to satellite internet service providers will not be considered as overlap and are allowed be included in VATI applications. Additionally, areas covered under RDOF may be included in VATI applications; however, if they are included, that application must achieve functionally universal coverage in the county, or counties, in the application, and additional conditions will apply. A slide deck from the stakeholder meeting detailing the changes may be here.

DHCD strongly encourages past VATI applicants, ISPs, and local governments to provide feedback by the May 17 deadline. The draft guidelines may be reviewed here. VACo staff intends to review and submit formal comments on the proposed guidelines, and encourages interested localities to submit their feedback to DHCD here.

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 
  • July 27 – Deadline for Public Notice for VATI Applications
  • September 14 – VATI Application Deadline 

VACo encourages members to reach out if you have any additional questions or concerns regarding VATI or other Broadband related issues.

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

 

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