Rural Internet Grant Snagged for Halifax County

Halifax County has received a $231,108 state grant to expand rural broadband service in partnership with SCS Broadband, a third-party wireless internet provider.

Halifax was one of 12 counties in Virginia that received a share of $4.9 million in grants through the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI), which provides targeted funding to extend service to areas that are unserved by any broadband provider.

“In our 21st century economy, broadband connectivity is tied to every facet of our daily lives, from education to business to health care — that’s why making high-speed internet available to every Virginian, in every region of the Commonwealth is a top priority for my administration,” said Gov. Ralph Northam in announcing the grant awards on Friday.

“This funding will help to close the digital divide in Virginia by putting in place the necessary infrastructure to expand affordable and reliable broadband service to currently unserved rural communities.”

The state funding will supplement a $200,000 investment by the Halifax County Board of Supervisors in the network being built by SCS Broadband, based in Nelson County. The company is working with the county to expand wireless service to Nathalie, Vernon Hill, Clover, Turbeville and other county areas that do have internet service or are underserved by existing providers.

The VATI program is a state-funded program administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). The goal of VATI is to create strong, competitive communities throughout the Commonwealth by preparing those communities to build, utilize, and capitalize on telecommunications infrastructure.

DHCD allocated grant funding to eligible applicants to provide “last-mile” services to unserved areas of Virginia. The state budget currently includes $19 million in Fiscal Year 2020 for the VATI program.

“Slow, sporadic or limited broadband services present significant challenges for businesses looking to locate in Virginia’s rural communities,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “Through these grants, we are making another step forward towards expanding access to quality broadband internet throughout the Commonwealth.”

Projects were selected through a competitive process evaluating each project for demonstrated need and benefit for the community, applicant readiness and capacity, and the cost and leverage of the proposed project. The level of funding awarded is based on the infrastructure needs in the project areas.

An estimated 15,000 households, and 300 businesses, and community anchors will have broadband service available due to these grant awards, along with the public-private partnership involved in each project. Thirty-one applications requesting more than $10.9 million in funding were received. This year’s funding leverages $9.2 million in local and private sector matching funds.