A genuine grassroots effort involving citizens, supervisors, businesses, local organizations and Stafford County staff came to fruition this week when Governor Ralph Northam announced Stafford County is the recipient of an $874,478 FY20 Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) grant. The grant will be used for a partnership between Stafford County and KGI Communications, LLC. to bring fixed wireless internet to unserved people in the Aquia/Marlborough Point and Griffis-Widewater peninsula.
“Internet is vital for businesses, those who work at home and of course, students trying to complete homework,” said Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Meg Bohmke. “This grant will go a long way towards solving that problem and may open up solutions in the future for the remaining unserved areas.”
The state had $18.3 million in available funding, and 34 localities filed 39 applications for $43.6 million in funding. Awards were made to the highest scoring projects. This effort was Stafford’s second year applying for the grant, after being unsuccessful in FY2019. One of the grant requirements is for localities to partner with providers. Stafford is partnering with KGI Communications, LLC. As well, the Stafford County Economic Development Authority contributed $50,000 to the effort.
KGI uses the technology of air fiber from towers to connect homes and businesses. For residences, KGI offers speeds ranging from 25 to 150 Mbps with unlimited usage and no throttling. For businesses, KGI provides higher speeds and will customize speeds according to business needs. KGI has provided service for several years to King George County, Westmoreland County and Caroline County.
“From the start of this great partnership with Stafford County, I felt we had a wonderful opportunity to improve the lives of those who lack broadband connectivity in Stafford County. KGI Communications is excited to get moving on this grant-funded project and continue our efforts in extending and expanding broadband in our region,” said Michele Wido, President of KGI Communications.
The grant application process was very involved and was successful primarily because of the grassroots efforts and support of many. The package included letters from those affected including private citizens, the Aquia Bay Marina, Friends of Widewater State Park, the Fredericksburg Area Association of Realtors, the State Parks Director, Stafford’s Fire Chief Joe Cardello, Stafford Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Kizner, Senator Richard Stuart and Senator Scott Surovell.
“My former colleague, Jack Cavalier, and I met with many citizens and knew how the lack of broadband affected not just their daily lives but their livelihoods as well. We knew something had to be done,” said Supervisor Cindy Shelton, Aquia District. “I am so proud of the power of the people to make a difference. We will continue to work towards connecting all the unreached.”
Once the funding is disbursed to localities, the project must be completed within a year. Stafford County will be making regular updates to citizens on the progress of the project and how citizens can receive service via Stafford’s website and social media pages.