Verizon, Shentel score as VA awards $60M in grants

Verizon, Shenandoah Telecommunications (Shentel) and Breezeline took home sizable chunks of change as the state of Virginia doled $59.5 million in grants through the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI).

The awards are the latest to flow through the VATI program and will cover 14 projects across 20 localities in the state. All told, grant recipients in the 2023 funding round are set to cover 29,400 locations, including homes, businesses and anchor institutions. Descriptions of all but one of the projects specify they will use fiber technology.

Breezeline (formerly Atlantic Broadband) was the big winner, bagging nearly $15.2 million in funding for two projects in Essex and Caroline Counties. Those will cover a total of 5,745 locations. RiverStreet Networks wasn’t far behind, scoring $11.7 million in grant funding to cover 5,458 locations. It won the award via a joint application with the West Piedmont Planning District Commission, which represents Franklin, Henry, Patrick and Pittsylvania Counties.

Meanwhile, Empower Broadband got $8.6 million for a build covering just over 4,800 locations. It won the award alongside the Southside Planning District Commission, which covers Halifax, Mecklenburg and Brunswick Counties. Shentel snagged two awards totaling $6.3 million to cover just over 3,000 locations in Bedford and Shenandoah Counties.

Verizon won a pair of grants totaling around $5 million to connect 2,201 locations in Caroline and Greensville Counties. The awards appear to be Verizon’s first VATI grants. For this funding round it had also applied for another $1.7 million in funding for a project in James City County, but that request went unanswered.

Other winners included FiberLync ($2.2 million), Citizens Telephone Cooperative ($1.3 million) and All Points Broadband ($1.26 million).

Since the first award round in 2017, VATI has distributed nearly $800 million to expand broadband to more than 358,000 homes in Virginia.

But there’s still plenty of appetite for more funding given how oversubscribed the 2023 award round was. While only 14 projects received awards, Governor Glenn Youngkin’s office noted the state received 35 applications requesting over $300 million in support.

Breezeline’s winnings in Virginia build on $4.2 million in VATI funding it received in 2021. The operator also won nearly $3.7 million in funding for an expansion project in Maryland last year.

Speaking of Maryland, Verizon and Shentel both secured grants from the state last month, bagging $11.1 million and $9.4 million, respectively. Shentel previously won VATI funding the state’s fiscal 2022 for projects in Bedford, Campbell, Franklin, Roanoke and Shenandoah counties and in fiscal 2021 for Franklin County.