Surry gets $2.2 mil for internet

Published 2:02 am Wednesday, January 29, 2020

By Frederic Lee 

Staff writer

SURRY — A grant in the amount of $2.2 million has been awarded to Surry County to further the implementation of high-speed internet. 

The funds will help to provide broadband internet to over 1,200 homes in the county, according to a press release from Prince George Electric Cooperative.

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The grant was awarded through the Virginia Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Telecommunications Initiative, or VATI, and county officials put up an equal $2.2 million in local funds during the grant application process, according to county officials. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Prince George Electric Cooperative has been working to implement a broadband infrastructure in Surry and other counties in recent years, namely through a program called Ruralband. 

Large spans of the county — mainly outside of Surry town limits — are currently without access to high-speed internet. While, many residents outside of town currently get wireless internet through their cell phone plan, it’s often spotty and therefore unreliable, according to residents. 

Ruralband’s process of broadband implementation has already begun in the county’s Beechland area, and according to Interim Surry County Administrator Melissa Rollins, the broadband connect will apply to business locations as well. 

Over 40 communities in Virginia turned in applications for funds to aid broadband implementation in their respective areas, with 12 receiving awards through the VATI grant.

$18.3 million in grants were given out in total, with Charles City County receiving the largest amount — $3.9 million, according to information provided by Gov. Ralph Northam’s office. Other localities that received large amounts include Franklin County, King and Queen County and Grayson County. 

“The award of the VATI grant funds to bring broadband access to Surry County is a huge win for the County’s economic efforts,” said Surry County Board of Supervisors Chairman Robert Elliott; “We look forward to working with PGEC in providing this vital utility to meet the social, economic, educational and business needs of this community.”

Prince George Electric Cooperative’s Ruralband initiative was also awarded $5.1 million in federal dollars via the FCC’s Connect America fund for the purpose of implementing broadband in Surry County.

Surry County officials have zeroed in on broadband implementation recently, as a means to boost economic interest in the county, among other reasons. Several officials have referred to the internet as the “fourth utility.” 

Prince George Electric Cooperative currently offers home and business broadband products, with home broadband ranging from $49 to $169 a month, and business broadband ranging from $129 to $499. {/mprestriction}