CLINTWOOD, VA – MAY 30, 2023 – High speed Internet access gained another boost in Dickenson County as an up to $169,152 grant from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) was awarded to the Dickenson County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) to be used to finance the provision of low earth orbit space-based broadband to unserved and/or underserved children in Dickenson County.
A portion of the funding, $124,800 comes from the VCEDA Education and Telehealth Access Fund and the remaining amount, $44,352 comes from the VCEDA Dickenson County account. The county also plans to use $22,848 in ARPA funds to extend access to high-speed Internet which will serve an additional 48 households, including 74 school-aged children.
“The grant will be used to take care of the expenses of hardware, wiring and two-year subscriptions for each household served according to the Dickenson County Industrial Development Authority application,” said VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher. “In the end, the grant serves to enhance educational opportunities for students, expand health treatment options and to enhance workforce education and remote worker opportunities.”
VCEDA was appropriated $500,000 in the Virginia state budget for FY2023 and $500,000 in FY2024 “for initiatives intended to expand education and telehealth access.” VCEDA also received $500,000 for that purpose in FY 2022.
The VCEDA board adopted formal policies for the administration of the funds being received from the state in 2021 when it formed the VCEDA Education and Telehealth Access Fund. In FY2022, an application from the Appalachian Council for Innovation (ACI) was approved by the VCEDA Board for a project to provide low earth orbit Starlink satellite Internet service to unserved and/or underserved children in the VCEDA footprint. That project was done by ACI in association with various local school districts, resulting in a grand total of 724 children being provided access to Starlink, including connections made possible by leveraged funding from the participating localities of Dickenson, Russell, Tazewell and Wise Counties, according to a report from ACI.
Discussions concerning the funding being received by VCEDA in FY2023 resulted in several of the county industrial development authorities expressing a desire to apply for the funds for Starlink projects in their respective jurisdictions. At the September 15, 2022 VCEDA board meeting, the VCEDA Board approved an application from the Wise County IDA for up to $232,500 in FY2023 Education and Telehealth Access funds, in order to provide Starlink service to an additional 94 residences in Wise County.
The Dickenson County IDA submitted an application, which was also approved at the time it was submitted, for up to $144,000 in FY2023 Education and Telehealth Access funds to provide Starlink service to an additional 60 households in Dickenson County with 97 school-aged children.
The most recent request approved builds upon prior successes by providing the service to another 48 households with 74 children. Previously, the county noted in its applications there were a total of 290 households and 323 students that either did not have Internet access, or that did not have Internet access capable of supporting streaming for online learning.
“Over the course of the past several months, Dickenson County has been able to provide a total of 156 households access to high-speed Internet through the partnership with VCEDA and the Space-Based Broadband Grant program,” said Dana Cronkhite, Dickenson County economic development director. “We are thankful for this continued collaboration and commitment to our community, as access to high-speed Internet is one of the components for our future success and economic development.”
“I am thrilled to have worked with my fellow board members and VCEDA on this significant project that will provide dozens of new high speed internet connections to Dickenson County families,” said Dickenson County Board of Supervisors Chairman Josh Evans. “Our staff and board have worked tirelessly to expand access to high speed Internet. We are grateful to the VCEDA board and Mr. Belcher for working with us so closely.”
About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and Southwest Virginia’s e-Region: The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 to enhance and diversify the region’s economy and help create jobs, markets Southwest Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education, emerging technologies, and entrepreneurship. VCEDA is a unique economic development organization that manages funds for economic development projects from a percentage of the coal and natural gas severance taxes paid by coal and natural gas companies that operate in the region. Located in southwestern Virginia, the region includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton. www.vceda.us or www.e-Region.org.