All Points Broadband appears the current favorite choice for a partnership with the county government that could bring broadband internet to broad swaths of western Loudoun with the help of state grant funding.
Supervisors in this term have made extending broadband to western Loudoun a priority, dedicating money to building out a fiber optic network to county-owned facilities in the west that can act as a backbone to extend that connectivity to homes and businesses. That work is itself built off the Loudoun County Public Schools’ work to extend fiber optic cable to its western Loudoun facilities. All of that is meant to offer an easier solution to the “last mile” problem of internet access, referring to the relative cost to internet service providers to link up to those far-flung homes, versus how much those companies can expect to make back from relatively few customers.
The state also offers some help to get those people connected, with Virginia Telecommunication Initiative, or VATI grants, and Loudoun County staff is considering proposals from several companies to partner for a grant application. The favorite is one from All Points Broadband, building on the company’s success both with previous VATI applications. The company also is proposing partnering with Dominion Energy to extend fiber optic cable along power line routes—something All Points already has experience doing with Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative.
“Staff really looked at, first and foremost, which opportunity provides us the greatest chance of success for an actionable project with VATI,” said Assistant County Administrator Erin McLellan. “The goal here is to be able to win a VATI award so that a project can be partially offset, and provide a solution to the broadband question.”
All Points, she said, seems to offer the best chance for winning that grant. The company’s proposal is also favored by the county’s Communications Commission.
The proposal would extend broadband service to around 240 square miles of the county, reaching approximately 8,200 locations and building off the county’s fiber network.
Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) said that would address the vast majority of underserved and unserved homes in western Loudoun.
Still, the county will not formally select a partner for the VATI grant application until next month. Grant applications will open in June, with decisions expected in December.
“I want to be careful because I don’t want to make it sound like it’s going to be All Points,” said County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large).
County staff members are also looking into other potential sources of funding for expanding broadband, including from the American Rescue Plan Act, U.S. Department of Agriculture loans and grants, and other state and federal funding.