Donations sought to help fund broadband updates

A fundraising effort is underway to collect donations that will be earmarked to pay for expenses related to a potential grant to update broadband service in Patrick County.

The Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) announced that grants totaling up to $16.4 billion soon will be awarded to applicants in rural areas to upgrade internet service.

RiverStreet Networks intends to bid for Patrick County.

The company understands the county’s current financial situation, and will on Oct. 22 participate in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Phase I Auction, with the understanding that no funds from the county budget will be contributed to the project.

Based on past experience from FCC auctions, RiverStreet believes this may be a more than $14 million opportunity for the county.

To be competitive in the grant market, Patrick County needs to show it is committed to the project with $50,000 needed for an engineering plan that is critical for this and any future grant opportunities.

Half of that amount, $25,000, must be on hand by June 1, with the remaining $25,000 to be raised by the date of the auction.

The county, however, does not have the funds for the project.

As a result, donations are being sought.

The Stuart Rotary Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit, will collect donations until the funds are needed.

According to the last census, there are more than 5,000 residences in Patrick County. If each household donates just $10, the $50,000 goal will be exceeded.

The Patrick County Broadband Committee has partnered with RiverStreet Networks, Inc. to bring high speed broadband internet to other areas of the county. In January 2020, the county and RiverStreet Networks were awarded a $1.3 million Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) grant for Phase 1 Broadband Improvements in the county.

Organizers hope the newest grant opportunity will prove successful.

This is the opportunity of a lifetime to bring fiber-based internet to the homes and businesses of Patrick County,” organizers wrote. The engineering plan will give us a real shot at this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the residents, businesses and future of Patrick County. Let’s bring Patrick County into the 21st century.

Donations may be sent to The Stuart Rotary Foundation, with “Broadband” in the memo line of the check, and mailed to 185 Masset Road, Stuart, Va., 24171. In addition, donations also are accepted via Facebook at https://bit.ly/2Z4DL2g.

Rotary also is planning to hold a “Broadband Saturday” on June 6, with drive-through donation points set up throughout Patrick County.

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