On Dec. 13, Governor Ralph Northam announced that Montgomery County received a $27.6 million Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (“VATI”) Grant to assist with a $50 million project to bring high speed fiber optic broadband service to thousands of citizens and businesses throughout the County.
"Since we initially launched a broadband study in early 2019, our goal has been to find a way to help provide high-speed internet to all citizens and businesses in Montgomery County. We, as a government entity, understand the only way to achieve this goal is to partner with private companies like GigaBeam and Appalachian Power Company," said Montgomery County Administrator Craig Meadows.
"Together, we applied for and were awarded the one of the largest VATI grants in the Southwest region of Virginia to date. This significant grant has created a path for citizens and businesses throughout Montgomery County to have access to high speed internet by the end of 2023."
GigaBeam Networks and Appalachian Power Company are finalizing plans for the project that will bring high-speed internet for up to 8,822 citizens, businesses and community organizations located throughout Montgomery County.
"GigaBeam Networks is excited to be part of this project that will provide fast, dependable, and affordable broadband to locations that never previously had it," said GigaBeam Chief Executive Officer Michael Clemons.
"This couldn't have happened without the teamwork and partnership between Montgomery County, Appalachian Power Company, and GigaBeam Networks. GigaBeam has worked with Appalachian Power to be the first in the nation to solve the rural digital divide in Grayson County through this unique solution and we look forward to continuing this proven method for Montgomery County."
While the federal goal to provide universal broadband is 2030, Virginia set one of the most ambitious state goals by committing to bringing high-speed internet to citizens in 2024. With the VATI grant and the private-public collaboration in place, Montgomery County will accomplish the goal of bringing high-speed internet to its citizens by the end of 2023.
"We are eager and excited to work with Montgomery County," said Appalachian Power's Vice President of External Affairs, Brad Hall. "Our recent success in Grayson County demonstrates you can make high-speed internet accessible in rural areas, and we look forward to partnering and sharing our knowledge with this team."
The network being designed and built is capable of speeds up to 10 gigabytes per second, with 1 gigabyte per second being provided initially.
"Our County has so many great things to offer all citizens; however, the lack of adequate internet service has been identified as a priority by everyone," said Montgomery County Board of Supervisors Chair, Steve Fijalkowski.
"I’m happy to say we have heard the feedback from our citizens and we are going to respond to this need in short order."
The full grant request included Montgomery, Bland and Pulaski Counties and a public-private partnership with Gigabeam Networks, All Points Broadband, and Appalachian Power Company. The total project estimate is $135.7 million and will bring fiber broadband to up to 19,966 unserved locations in Bland, Montgomery, and Pulaski Counties.
Montgomery County is allocating $6 million of American Rescue Plan Act funding; Appalachian Power and GigaBeam are allocating $16.4 million; and of the total $68.3 million VATI award, Montgomery County is receiving $27.6 million, bringing the total funding for the proposed 8,822 connections in Montgomery County to $50 million.
"This increases our ability to continue to attract both new and develop existing businesses and retain and attract new workforce in Montgomery County," said Montgomery County Economic Development Director Brian Hamilton.
As they become available, project timelines and project updates will be provided at montva.com/broadband