Partnership will deliver universal internet access to region, connecting approximately 7,200 unserved locations
Governor Ralph Northam today joined Dominion Energy Virginia, All Points Broadband, and Northern Neck Electric Cooperative to celebrate the groundbreaking on the first phase of a project that will deliver fiber-optic broadband access to approximately 7,200 currently unserved households and businesses in Virginia’s Northern Neck region. This phase of the project will use a $10 million grant from the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative, along with federal and local funding and private investment, to bring internet access to all remaining unserved locations in King George, Northumberland, Richmond, and Westmoreland counties.
“Expanding access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet has been a top priority since the start of our administration—and the pandemic has only underscored the urgency in bridging the digital divide,” said Governor Northam. “By leveraging federal, state, local investment and private capital, this project will bring connectivity and opportunity to rural, unserved communities in the Northern Neck. We need to think big to make universal broadband a reality in our Commonwealth, and this regional initiative is exactly the type of unique partnership that will deliver on this promise.”
This partnership between electric utilities and broadband providers was made possible through a pilot program established by the General Assembly in 2019, which promotes collaboration between localities, electric utilities, and internet service providers to connect unserved areas to high-speed internet. In just two years of the pilot program, Virginia’s utility companies have helped connect more than 13,000 homes and businesses across the Commonwealth. Earlier this year, Governor Northam signed bipartisan legislation that makes the pilot program permanent.
Dominion Energy is installing over 200 miles of fiber from Fredericksburg to Kilmarnock, which will serve as the backbone for the project. This fiber capacity can be used for operational needs and for broadband access, reducing broadband deployment costs for internet service providers. Under the agreement, All Points Broadband, the internet service provider for the partnership, will lease the “middle-mile” fiber installed by Dominion Energy in the company’s electric service area in these four counties. All Points Broadband is expected to begin installing the “last mile” portion of the network that will connect unserved homes and businesses in the fourth quarter of 2021.
“Bridging the digital divide is a complex challenge that requires new business models and new ways of thinking,” said Jimmy Carr, CEO of All Points Broadband. “The Northern Neck initiative is a model of what can be achieved through a combination of public-private and electric-utility partnerships, and we are excited to bring more projects like this one to fruition.”
“We are thrilled to see this project on Virginia’s Northern Neck moving forward and are excited to work with our partners to help bridge the digital divide in the communities we serve,” said Ed Baine, President of Dominion Energy Virginia.
“Governor Northam and his administration, and bipartisan leadership in the General Assembly, have determined that bridging the digital divide in Virginia is a top priority,” said Ajit Pai, immediate past chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and partner at Searchlight Capital Partners, All Points’ lead sponsor. “Building on the forward-looking, bipartisan framework that Virginia has established, Searchlight is committed to investing in more partnerships like the Northern Neck initiative, so we can finally solve this challenge together.”
Northern Neck Electric Cooperative will work alongside Dominion Energy and All Points Broadband to extend the network, improving their electric grid and power poles along the way.
“We are proud of the role Northern Neck Electric Cooperative has played to bring this project to today, and the example this initiative has set for other regions throughout Virginia,” said Brad Hicks, President and CEO of Northern Neck Electric Cooperative.
“We are pleased to see construction begin on this project to bring much needed broadband access to the Northern Neck,” said Senators Ryan McDougle and Richard Stuart and Delegate Margaret Ransone. “This critical service will improve quality of life and economic prosperity and help move our region forward.”
All Points Broadband, Dominion Energy, Northern Neck Electric Cooperative and the Counties of King George, Northumberland, Richmond, and Westmoreland announced an agreement on the project in April 2020. Lancaster and Middlesex Counties have subsequently joined the regional initiative. Work on the project is underway using a phased approach, including an application by Dominion Energy to the State Corporation Commission which was approved in March 2021. The partners have secured $18.8 million in state and federal funding to help bring a fiber-to-the-home broadband network to presently unserved locations in the initial four counties.
Residents of the Northern Neck can visit fiber.allpointsbroadband.com to register their location, determine whether their location is included in the project’s initial phase, and sign up for future project updates.