Nearly 10,000 Fauquier homes and businesses that currently lack access to broadband may finally be served with high-speed, fiber-optic internet within the next few years following Virginia’s Department of Housing & Community Development’s announcement that its telecommunication infrastructure project is back on track.
During the Fauquier Board of Supervisors meeting Thursday, Deputy County Administrator Erin Kozanecki announced the department officially signed a contract with the Richmond-based internet provider All Points Broadband, the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission, Fauquier County and other localities authorizing the implementation of the largest publicly funded broadband project in Virginia’s history, called The Virginia Telecommunication Initiative or VATI Grant.
Signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam August 2021, the grant is meant to allocate billions of dollars, including a $700 million investment in the VATI, of stimulus funding the state received through the American Rescue Plan Act toward creating universal broadband access across the state by 2024.
In September 2021, Fauquier and other surrounding localities — including Augusta, Clarke, Frederick, Page, Rappahannock and Warren counties — applied for a $97.2 million grant, later adjusted to $96.8 million, to fund the construction of 700 miles of fiber optic cables that would bring high-speed internet access to approximately 42,700 unserved locations across the region. Approximately 10,000 of those locations would be in Fauquier County.
The total cost of the project, however, was $306.2 million. Thus, as part of its contract with the state, All Points, Northern Shenandoah, Fauquier and other localities were required to help make up the difference.
Fauquier allocated approximately $10.5 million to the project using federal stimulus funds it received via the American Rescue Plan.
The project completion date was anticipated to be early 2023. But Kozaneck told FauquierNow the timeline was pushed back because the transition from former Gov. Ralph Northam to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration earlier this year.
“Basically, administration staffing turnover delayed it, which we knew was quite possible,” she sad. “And that’s normal.”
Kozanecki said during Thursday’s meeting the new completion date would be sometime during the summer of 2025. She said a specific project timeline will be provided by September 2022.
Residents can sign up to receive updates from All Points by visiting its website, fiber.allpointsbroadband.com/. The county also has a webpage with project updates that residents can visit, using this link.
To gain access to the broadband network, customers must pay a standard installation fee of $199 if they are within 500 feet of the line. Those more than 500 feet will be eligible for a fee waiver within the first year of the service becoming available.
All plans will have no data caps with an additional flat $5 service fee to cover applicable taxes and fees. Below are the estimated costs for each internet plan based on estimates within the grant application:
- 50/50 mbps – $59.99/month
- 100/100 mbps – $79.99/month
- 500/500 mbps – $99.99/month
- 1/1 gbps – $109.99/month
Data Stream lawsuit ongoing
The news that many residents may receive high-speed internet in the years ahead comes a month after one of the county’s current broadband providers, Data Stream Mobile Technologies, filed a lawsuit against the Fauquier Broadband Authority and Board of Supervisors for defamation.
Before the suit, in June, Data Stream, which reportedly had 629 subscribers as of March, accused the county of violating its contract with the company for “defaulting” on its “contribution to the costs” of providing broadband access. The county denied this claim.
Cedar Run District Supervisor and new board Chairman Rick Gerhardt went so far as to claim that the company was “non-responsive to subscribers’ service issues” and possibly to blame for a “reduction in service speeds” as a way to put pressure on the board.
On Thursday, the board attorney-in-law voted to authorize the County Tracy Gallehr, Alexandria, Harman, Claytor, Corrigan, and Wellman, to represent the county in the case.