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$500K awarded for broadband

Buckingham, Cumberland and Lunenburg are among five counties that were each awarded $85,000 in grant funding to fast-track broadband expansion in the area.

The funds, totaling $502,491, are part of the federal CARES Act. The five counties awarded grant funds were Amelia, Buckingham, Cumberland, Lunenburg and Nottoway.

The news came Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 24, in the form of a press release by the Commonwealth Regional Council (CRC).

The release states the CRC assisted all five counties in submitting funding applications.

According to the release, the project, in partnership with Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC), will improve broadband in these counties, and MBC will partner with existing internet service providers (ISPs) in each county to expand broadband services to target areas.

The project is anticipated to benefit approximately 2,445 homes and 400 businesses.

The release also said the funding will allow MBC to invest in and install new optical network equipment, improving internet access, bandwidth capabilities and functionality. Groups that will see  great benefit from the project will include students participating in remote learning, residents who telework and local businesses seeing an increase in Wi-Fi demand.

“MBC was created to establish open-access, high-capacity fiber backbone network connections to enable ISPs to provide robust broadband services in Southern Virginia, where sometimes infrastructure investments can be tough to justify,” MBC President and CEO Tad Deriso said in the release. “This CARES Act funding will help us keep fulfilling this mission for Southern Virginia. The diligent work of the CRC to secure CARES Act broadband funding will pay big dividends for their localities.”

The project, according to the release, is anticipated not only to have immediate impact but will facilitate ongoing broadband expansion projects well into the future to provide both short- and long-term benefits for MBC’s ISP customers.

On Tuesday, Deriso said enhanced broadband capacity will help both current and future ISPs gain more access to internet bandwidth which can be used to provide better service to customers.

“While this investment does not directly support new last mile connections that are needed to connect homes and businesses that are not connected, it will enable the ISPs that provide the last mile service to have more robust and stable internet backhaul connections which are still needed for broadband expansion,” he added.

CRC officials noted the project is scheduled to be substantially completed by the end of the year.

Don Unmussig

Cumberland County Administrator Don Unmussig highlighted Tuesday the changes coming to the county.

“Cumberland is excited to have been approved for this CARES Act funding,” Unmussig said.  “As you know, we had submitted two applications, one for a CVEC fiber backbone project to support CVEC’s efforts to provide broadband service in the northern areas of the county, and the second application was for Cumberland’s portion to support the multi-jurisdictional MBC project that will develop broadband capability in the southern and central areas of the county. 

“Cumberland’s combined award from the $30 million grant program made available by the governor was $201,500. The MRC project will receive $85,000, with the remainder going to the CVEC project. We are hoping that this funding boost in both of those projects will help provide our citizens with robust broadband services sooner than would have been possible had the governor’s $30 million in CARES grant funds not been made available.”