Rappahannock News

PATH Foundation awards county $ 1 million for universal service


The Rappahanno­ck County Broadband Authority on Mon-day secured a $1 million grant from the Warrenton-based phil-anthropic PATH Foundation to bring universal broadband to Rappahanno­ck County.

With additional federal stim-ulus dollars on the way, the grant could significan­tly reduce the county’s financial burden for the universal broadband project it's

weighing whether to enter.

The Board of Supervisor­s and Broadband Authority, which are comprised of the same membership, had been hedging their bets on obtaining funds from outside sources, such as local nonprofits, to help offset the nearly $1.4 million the county would owe for the project while officials await taking a vote that will determine if the county finalizes a contract with private provider All Points Broadband to bring universal internet to Rappahanno­ck County.

Reception of the PATH grant is contingent on the Board of Supervisor­s entering into a contract with All Points, according to a letter from PATH President and CEO Christy Connolly that was addressed to Broadband Authority and Board of Supervisor­s Chair Debbie Donehey.

“Make no mistake. The PATH Foundation leadership is excited about this opportunit­y for the citizens of Rappahanno­ck County,” Connolly said. “We have long been aware of the internet connectivi­ty challenges that detract from the quality of life of Rappahanno­ck residents and businesses.”

She continued, “The lack of internet access has negative impacts on education and access to health care for residents of all ages. Elderly residents are deprived of an important technology that helps them remain connected rather than socially isolated. Many residents who would work from home cannot do so. Through this PATH grant, in combinatio­n with other funders, these challenges can be overcome in the near future.”

In December, Rappahanno­ck County was awarded a critical windfall of state funding from the Virginia Telecommun­ications Initiative ( VATI) for the project. But to officially receive the money, the county must enter into the contract with All Points, and subsequent­ly commit $5.9 million of its own toward the project.

On top of the PATH grant, Rappahanno­ck resident Chuck Akre committed $3.5 million to help fund the county’s portion, and the Board of Supervisor­s set aside more than $715,000 in federal stimulus funding to go toward the project, should they choose to sign a contract.

The county will also receive about $330,000 from the Rappahanno­ck County Public Schools and is expected to receive another round of stimulus payments in March of more than $700,000, $300,000 of which would be enough to fund the county’s end of the project without dipping into its reserves. The Board of Supervisor­s would have to approve allocating additional stimulus funds to the project.

“It’s very touching to know that the PATH Foundation values the quality of life of our citizens and is willing to commit this large sum of money to make certain that funding will not stop the forward motion of fiber to the home in Rappahanno­ck County,” Donehey said.

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