Board Spotlight: Universal Broadband Projects Poised for Completion Later this Year: Nearly 15,000 Homes to be Served for First Time
By: Scotty Wampler, Executive Director, Cumberland Plateau PDC
Significant federal, state and local investments in broadband continue to pay dividends in Virginia as many previously unserved communities received high-speed internet for the first time in 2023. In fact, multiple holistic and universal coverage projects happening throughout the southwestern section of Virginia are anticipated to conclude by the end of 2024, including ongoing efforts occurring in the four counties and twelve towns served by the Cumberland Plateau Planning District Commission (CPPDC).
Those counties — Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell and Tazewell — are benefitting from a $68.3 million investment in new broadband infrastructure, which includes approximately $49.4 million in grant funding secured by CPPDC through the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) to extend high-speed broadband to homes that are currently unserved or underserved. Those funds, matched by approximately $17.5 million from Point Broadband and $1.4 million from the planning district, support two concurrent projects that will deliver high-speed broadband service to a total of nearly 15,000 homes in the four-county area.
Build-outs for both projects remain on schedule to conclude in late 2024. At that time, the planning district’s four counties are expected to reach 90-95 percent total broadband coverage (including all surrounding internet service providers). When complete, both active projects will have extended high-speed broadband to approximately one-third of the district’s population.
Thanks to a variety of public and private partnerships, CPPDC set the stage for this broadband expansion effort two decades ago through the development of a robust fiber broadband backbone network in all four counties that ultimately made the scope of the twin VATI projects significantly more feasible to accomplish. Early supporters of this network included the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission and the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA).