On October 8, Governor Northam announced a new, fast-track program to distribute $30M in CARES Act funds, targeting rural broadband access across the Commonwealth. With a requirement that the funds be expended and service in place by December 25, 2020, Rockbridge County, the Rockbridge Area Network Authority (RANA) and BARC Connects moved quickly to identify projects that could be built within the scheduled requirement, applying for a total of $1,140,649 in funding. The application included $770,000 for BARC Connects projects and $178,139 for RANA projects. Rockbridge County has been notified that $770,000 has been awarded for the BARC Connects portion of the project. The RANA portion is still under review by the Governor’s Office. In addition, Augusta County has been awarded $567,063 in broadband CARES funding that will be used for the Swoope Tower Fixed Wireless and New Hope Telephone Cooperative Fiber projects. Both projects will increase broadband connectivity to improve distance learning, telework, and telehealth capabilities in response to COVID-19 for underserved areas identified in Augusta County’s 2016 Broadband Telecommunications Strategic Plan.
Localities must apply for the funding and are encouraged to partner with broadband providers to complete the projects.