Mecklenburg County and Buggs Island Telephone Cooperative Receive Funding to Extend Broadband Access

On January 11, 2018, Governor Terry McAuliffe announced $978,559 in grants through the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI) for the counties of Albemarle, Culpeper, Mecklenburg, and Spotsylvania. The VATI program provides funding for communities partnering with private sector providers to extend broadband access to unserved areas of the Commonwealth that are unable to receive higher internet speeds. The goal of VATI is to create strong, competitive communities throughout the Commonwealth by preparing those communities to build, utilize, and capitalize on telecommunications infrastructure.

 

“High-quality internet connectivity is one of the most critical tools for communities to grow, diversify, and build a new Virginia economy,” said Governor McAuliffe. “I am pleased to announce these Virginia Telecommunications Grants. Providing adequate telecommunications in a community is essential for educating our children, residents, and workforce, attracting businesses, improving medical services, and providing a better quality of life for all Virginians.”

 

The Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors approved to apply for this grant as the private sector applicant, with Buggs Island Telephone Cooperative (BIT) serving as the co-applicant public service provider. Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisor’s Chairman Glenn Barbour stated “Internet access has gone from being a novelty to a necessity and there are parts of Mecklenburg County that have limited or no access to high-speed service.  This year, Mecklenburg County partnered with The Center for Innovative Technology to conduct a survey of county residents regarding the broadband needs of our community. Our rural communities increasingly face challenges due to slow, sporadic and limited broadband services.  They rely on broadband service to connect them to the global marketplace for basic lifestyle needs such as education, distance learning, teleworking, telemedicine, and entertainment. Sustainable broadband to perform daily activities is critical to remote rural communities.”

 

Projects for this grant were selected through a competitive process evaluating each project for demonstrated need and benefit for the community, applicant readiness and capacity, and the cost and leverage of the proposed project. The Mecklenburg County and BIT application was one of the twelve applications that totaled more than $2.8 million in funding that were received and was one of the four projects that were awarded funding through the 2018 Virginia Telecommunication Initiative program.

 

Michele Taylor, General Manager of Buggs Island Telephone stated: “BIT remains dedicated to our members and will continue to find innovative ways to live up to our commitment to bring our members, the latest in telecommunications technology. BIT would greatly like to empower our members with the fastest and most reliable network. Fiber-to-the-Home will do this. However, deploying Fiber-to-the-Home is expensive and must be accomplished in phases. The awarding of this grant and the partnership with Mecklenburg County is a positive step towards getting our rural areas in Mecklenburg County the essential means to advance to the broadband levels that the urban areas in Virginia currently are provided. This broadband service will be a great economic benefit to this unserved community and help promote much needed development. BIT sincerely appreciates the assistance that the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors has given to BIT.”

 

With the commitment of Mecklenburg County and BIT, this grant will help extend the broadband access to one of BIT’s unserved areas within the Cooperative territory. BIT’s 1st Fiber to the Home build-out includes sections of Great Creek Landing in Bracey and began construction on May 15, 2018. BIT hosted a ground-breaking ceremony on that day to celebrate the beginning of bringing Fiber benefits to the members of the Cooperative and Mecklenburg County. With Fiber to the Home, BIT will have the capability of providing 200Mbps of Broadband and Voice to every premise in the grant area. This project is defined as four (4) miles of new plant construction and will serve approximately 123 households.

 

Taylor stated “As we continue with plans to deploy fiber in other areas of the Cooperative territory, we will keep our members updated through our website, social media and direct letters. More exciting times lie ahead for our membership! We appreciate everyone that attended the ground-breaking ceremony to help us celebrate and be a part of this special day in history for BIT and Mecklenburg County! BIT was honored to have Delegate Tommy Wright, Glenn Barbour, Dan Tanner and Wayne Carter with Mecklenburg County, Deborah Gosney with Southside Planning District Commission, Paul Nichols Mecklenburg County School Superintendent and representatives from the Department of Housing and Community Development, Tamarah Holmes and Michelle Jones in attendance.”

 

“This program/project was funded/supported in collaboration with the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Telecommunication Initiative.”

 

About BIT:

The Buggs Island Telephone Cooperative (BIT Communications), founded in 1951 and headquartered in Bracey, Virginia, is a rural telephone company that provides voice, data, and security services in rural portions of Mecklenburg and Brunswick counties in southeastern Virginia. BIT Communications, who has been serving its members for 64 years, strives to provide the latest, superior quality telecommunication and broadband services and products at competitive prices and to do so with pride, respect, and exceptional performance. Thriving and operating under the Cooperative principles, BIT has experience with constructing broadband communications facilities in the Commonwealth. Being in the communications business for over half a century has gained BIT the extensive experience in the design, installation, and maintenance of broadband infrastructure. Today, BIT has approximately 2,995 access lines and over 2,000 internet subscribers.