RD626 - Virginia Telecommunication Initiative Technical Performance Report – November 1, 2023

Executive Summary:

The Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI) has been Virginia’s main source of funding for broadband deployment. VATI provides grants to localities partnered with internet service providers to finance the deployment of high-speed broadband to locations (called a “passing") within the Commonwealth that are determined to be “unserved." Passings are places where the internet can be accessed – thus it could be a business, community anchor, a home, or an apartment complex. A passing is unserved(*1) if it lacks access to internet speeds of 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 20 Megabits (Mbps) upload (“100/20").

This report is required by statute and has been prepared by the Office of Broadband located within the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). This report tracks the technical performance of the VATI provider partners in their work to deploy broadband. This report adheres to the factors that the General Assembly directed to be tracked and presents them in the manner directed by the General Assembly.

Below are the key takeaways from the report:

• Total passings to be served (locations ‘passed’ by broadband infrastructure: VATI FY22 and FY23 projects will provide access to broadband infrastructure to 310,074 locations across Virginia.

• Locations Built-To: To date, FY22 projects have provided broadband access to 50,305 locations, which is within 90% of the projected connections for this time period. The 14 FY23 projects are recently getting under contract and will begin final engineering and design, as well as construction in 2024.

• Maximum Speeds Available: Over 92% of projects funded in FY22 and FY23 offer gigabit (1,000 Mbps) download speeds, and over 67% offer gigabit upload speeds. These speeds are well in excess of the minimum 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps speeds required by VATI.

Leveraged local and private funding: In addition to $778.7 million in state and federal funding awarded, FY22 and FY23 projects leverage a total of $1.136 billion in private and local match funding, of which over $138.2 million has been expended to-date.

In conclusion, 45 out of the 49 projects funded from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) and General Funds from FY22 and FY23 are scheduled to being completed on time as of the time of this report’s submission. 13 projects are either at risk, or potential risk for requesting a timeline extension. Justification for these delays include the make-ready effort, which includes preparing existing electric poles for aerial broadband network construction, as well as supply chain and labor markets, streamlining utility locate efforts, railroad crossings, and permitting to cross state and federally owned lands. Looking forward, DHCD will continue its ongoing work monitoring the progress of projects. When necessary, DHCD staff provides technical assistance and coordinates discussions between grantees, their VATI ISP partner and relevant parties to help mitigate issues by sharing best practices to mitigate challenges as well as explore opportunities to collaborate with state level stakeholders to streamline processes.
(*1) In the FY22 VATI process, the definition of unserved was set at 25/3. This definition of unserved has been upgraded to those passings lacking access to broadband at speeds of 100/20 for the FY23 VATI process.