City of Suffolk Broadband Initiatives
In today's day and age, access to high-speed broadband internet is paramount for success across all stages of life. Suffolk City Council and City Staff are committed to obtaining the Governor of Virginia's goal of universal broadband coverage by 2024, focusing on the large portions of rural, out-lying areas that have little to no viable internet access.
The City has taken advantage of a variety of funding opportunities which have made closing the digital divide significantly easier. With the provision of CARES Act funding, State run grant program submittals, and Federally administered provider assistance programs, the City of Suffolk finds itself in a position to capitalize on these various funding opportunities. These opportunities stand to potentially result in City-wide universal broadband coverage in a relatively short time frame.
The City of Suffolk, in conjunction with the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC), created an interactive map allowing citizens to enter an address and discern which of the broadband funding sources their residence or property will fall under. The interactive map includes the City of Suffolk, Isle of Wight County, and Southampton County.
RDOF (Rural Digital Opportunity Fund)
The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) is a program created by the federal government, administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to aid in the provision of high-speed broadband access to the most rural of areas. RDOF is a program between the FCC and a registered provider, meaning that the City of Suffolk has no control over the selection, delivery, award process, etc. Program specifications state that the provider must have 30% of the project area completely built within three (3) years of notification of the award, and the entire project area must be completed after six (6) years of notification. There are several incentives to providers to build their awarded areas quicker than the timeline set forth.
The City of Suffolk is working closely with Charter/Spectrum to ensure an efficient permitting process with our various departments. The beginning phases of this project are underway, some citizens have likely seen Charter/Spectrum employees walking and mapping out your areas. Charter Communications/Spectrum plans to begin construction of these projects in January 2022.
VATI (Virginia Telecommunication Initiative) Grant Application
The Virginia Telecommunication Initiative is a program administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), the program is a grant process by which local governments and internet and/or cable service providers complete an extensive application process. The DHCD then reviews and chooses the top applicants to receive program funding.
The City of Suffolk and Counties of Isle of Wight and Southampton, in conjunction with Charter/Spectrum and the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, submitted a regional grant application for DHCD's 2022 VATI cycle, which totals around $38 Million. The City stands to service 2,285 previously unserved residences and businesses in the most rural areas.
On Monday, December 13, 2021, Governor Ralph S. Northam announced the 2022 Virginia Telecommunications Initiative Grant Awards. The regional grant application, submitted by the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission on behalf of the City of Suffolk and Counties of Isle of Wight and Southampton, was awarded $21 Million to go alongside the nearly $14 Million provided by the localities and Charter Communications/Spectrum.
CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act)
Following the City's disbursements of CARES Act funds, a surplus remained. The City Manager resolved that these funds should be utilized to aid our citizens in rural areas. Charter Communications/Spectrum and the City created a plan and have worked collectively to provide these services in a timely fashion, as there is an expiration date on the CARES Act Funds. The areas that were chosen to provide services were selected based upon a number of factors; two specific factors are Charter Communications/Spectrum's assessment of serviceability and locations not within the RDOF award areas. Citizens in these areas should expect services by the end of 2021. This project is complete.
Please follow this link to see the mapped address points: