QUINCY, Mass. – Atlantic Broadband, the eighth-largest cable operator in the U.S., will partner with state and local officials in Virginia to extend the availability of broadband internet in four rural, coastal Chesapeake Bay counties.
The $7.2 million, 130-mile project will reach more than 1,200 homes and businesses in Caroline, Mathews, Lancaster and Middlesex counties and will take 18 months to complete.
The initiative is being funded through a $4.2 million Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI) grant, $1.5 million contributed by the four local counties, and $1.5 million from Atlantic Broadband. VATI is a state-funded program administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development to help local communities expand their telecommunications infrastructure.
The VATI grant, announced by Governor Ralph Northam last month, was awarded to Atlantic Broadband and Mathews County after a competitive bidding process that considered community need and benefit.
"Atlantic Broadband has invested extensively in its network infrastructure in order to connect our communities to vital services," said William T. Newborg, Director of Grants and Funding for Atlantic Broadband. "We are excited to partner now with local county officials and the Commonwealth to extend our reach even further."
"Atlantic Broadband has shown great enthusiasm in helping counties achieve their broadband goals and reaching as many neighborhoods as possible," said Judy Rowe, Chair of the Mathews Broadband Advisory Board, which submitted the application with Atlantic Broadband on behalf of the four counties. "Providing service to these areas without assistance would be difficult and would add years to the build-out. With VATI assistance, we move closer to achieving our goal of future proofing this region with advanced broadband connectivity."
Both Lancaster and Middlesex counties have established their own Broadband Authorities, while Mathews and Caroline have Broadband Advisory Committees. These organizations report to their respective Board of Supervisors to help oversee broadband infrastructure enhancements, which helps drive economic development, educational outcomes and digital literacy.
"We know that connectivity is essential for work and learning, especially in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kevin Gentry, Executive Director of the Middlesex Broadband Authority. “This is an important first step in our ongoing efforts to ensure long-term economic vitality for this region."
While the formalizing of the VATI contract with the Commonwealth, Atlantic Broadband and the four counties is underway, Atlantic Broadband will conduct field walkouts so that the final design can be completed for each county project. These activities, which will occur over the next 30-60 days, will include a survey of addresses, footage measurements, and easement activities. Once the VATI contract is executed and walkout and design are completed, Atlantic Broadband will begin the construction process.
The timeline for construction and activation will be announced once preliminary phases are completed in each county. "We know that there is great interest in knowing when the various phases will occur, so we will keep our county partners and our community members informed as we make progress over the next 18 months," said Newborg.
The four-county initiative in Virginia is one of multiple private-public broadband partnerships that Atlantic Broadband has pursued to expand the reach of broadband across its service areas. With support from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (also known as the CARES Act), and other partnerships, Atlantic Broadband has completed additional expansion projects in Middlesex, Caroline and King George counties in Virginia, St. Mary's and Queen Anne's counties in Maryland, and Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.