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Part of county to see broadband

EMPOWER Broadband and the Southside Planning District Commission (SPDC) have submitted a grant application to the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development’s Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) to provide universal fiber-to-the-home broadband coverage, over a 36-month timeline to remaining unserved and underserved areas in the counties of Brunswick, Halifax, Mecklenburg, and the southern portion of Charlotte.

The grant application includes a projected cost of $6.5 million to deploy 88 miles of fiber passing 434 locations in southern Charlotte County. The County has approved a match of $651,000 with EMPOWER and others providing $2.9 Million with a matching request to the VATI program at $2,9 Million.

EMPOWER was recently awarded the bid to complete a fiber-to-the-premise solution in response to SPDC’s Request for Proposals (RFP) to provide high-speed internet service to its three-county member jurisdictions Brunswick, Halifax and Mecklenburg counties. As the SPDC, and its counties, sought to provide the strongest VATI application possible, they elected to include the southern portion of Charlotte County, who had independently conducted its own RFP, which was also won by EMPOWER. This regional approach has been strongly encouraged by VATI as it seeks to provide universal service to significant portions of the Commonwealth and meet Governor Northam’s directive to provide high- speed broadband to all those who lack needed broadband services.

EMPOWER has completed the initial 135-mile fiber backbone supported by Mecklenburg County in a 2018 grant from the Virginia Tobacco Commission. That backbone has served as the foundation for the further expansion of the highspeed network across the region. The grant application includes a projected cost of $73 million to deploy 785 miles of fiber passing 9,085 locations in Mecklenburg County. The County has approved a match of $3 million with EMPOWER and others providing $37 Million with a matching request to the VATI program at $33 Million.

In recent weeks, Virginia’s legislature appropriated $700 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to match private and locality funds to complete the buildout of high-speed internet to some 230,000 rural residents. This funding represents the Commonwealth’s most significant investment to ensure all Virginia households have access to true high-speed internet.

Projected capital costs to serve the four-county area covered by the application, over a three-year period, totals $175 million, elevating the need for a significant matching share from the VATI program.