Not all homes in Hanover County have access to reliable internet service and the county government has taken a multi-faceted approach to dealing with the problem.
Partnering with Comcast and CenturyLink, the County has applied for millions of dollars in grant funding through the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI). Hanover and Comcast are seeking $6.37 million from VATI to serve as many as 1,307 customers in the Rockville and Old Church areas. Hanover and CenturyLink are seeking $1 million from VATI to serve as many as 515 customers in the Doswell and Gum Tree areas. The providers and Hanover County have also committed to funding support should these applications be approved.
The letters from Hanover County and the grant applications can be read at https://www.dhcd.virginia.gov/vati
Grant recipients are expected to be announced in December by the Department of Housing and Community Development, which oversees the VATI grant program.
The Board of Supervisors has also accepted over $18 million in CARES Act funds that are being solely administered by the county government. The local government is using this CARES Act funding to establish public wireless internet access at public buildings.
This program includes placing wireless access points at up to 10 locations across the County with public access to internet services. Hanover County is a member of the Pamunkey Regional Library. The Library has a full digital literacy program that includes providing public wireless, mobile hotspots, and other mobile services (printing, etc.). Hanover County Public Schools will be providing an on-line educational program that includes issuance of devices to all students in grades 3-12 and to all teachers. Schools will also provide complete web-based educational services.
In July, the County developed a survey tool that allows citizens to run an internet speed test and report that data to the County. For respondents who live within areas included in the VATI grant applications filed in August 2020, this information was included in the application. However, citizens who do not live in the grant areas also are invited to participate as it would provide additional information to the County and to internet service providers.
Click here to access the survey tool.
The Board of Supervisors has appointed a Citizens Broadband Advisory Committee to develop practical solutions for addressing the needs of residents throughout the county. This committee’s work was interrupted by the COVID-19 but they have resumed meeting again, and are expected to bring a report back to the Board in later this year or in 2021.
“We will be finalizing additional longer term plans and commitments by the end of the year,” said John A. Budesky, County Administrator. “Reliable broadband options will require substantial investment from the private sector and the County is committed to leveraging our resources and to access State and Federal funding opportunities to meet the needs of our residents.”
More information and background on this issue can be read here.