New Kent County, comprised of 212 square miles of land and water, is largely considered rural even though the County has been named the second fastest growing locality in the Commonwealth for over three years in a row. Despite the growth, a large portion of the County does not have adequate internet service coverage. New Kent County understands that high speed internet access is essential for our community - to include business, education, public safety, and home life. As such, the New Kent County Board of Supervisors has made this issue a priority.
In September 2020 New Kent County applied for a $4.5 million Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI) grant which requires localities to submit a joint application with a service provider - in this case Cox Communications is our only current provider option. A local government cannot receive VATI funds without proposing a partnership with a service provider. The County did not receive 2020 VATI grant funds.
On October 13, 2020 the Board of Supervisors approved an agreement with RiverStreet Networks to develop the engineering design plan for a countywide fiber optic network with the intentions of making high speed broadband service available to every household in New Kent County. RiverStreet Networks is a technology brand in North Carolina and Virginia that consists of several companies and is committed to continuing the trend of providing access to high speed Internet in rural America by branching out to the underserved and unserved rural areas of North Carolina and Virginia. This is one of the many options that New Kent is exploring considering broadband.
On November 6, 2020 the Board of Supervisors held a retreat and received a fiber broadband analysis from Design Nine, the County's broadband consultant.
On November 17, 2020 the Board of Supervisors held a broadband virtual town hall meeting in an effort to have RiverStreet Networks give a presentation and to have residents ask questions about the broadband process. The same month the Board of Supervisors entered into an agreement with RiverStreet Networks to design a fiber optic network with, again, the goal of serving every household with high speed internet service.
On June 24, 2021 RiverStreet came before the Board to present the results of the design plan. Their presentation can be viewed on the County’s YouTube page at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SkKnk5OibQ. You can also view the final design plan. The design plan price tag came in just under $50 million with the County's share being just under $25 million. The remaining cost is based on grants as well as private and local funds.
On September 8, 2021 the County executed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with RiverStreet Communications of Virginia to develop and implement a broadband expansion project utilizing Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) grant funding. The MOU was required for Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) funding. RiverStreet finalized the grant application and the County was notified on December 13, 2021 that VATI funding was not awarded to New Kent County for 2021.
County Administrator Rodney Hathaway gave the Board of Supervisors a broadband funding update at a Special December 13, 2021 Board meeting. Approximately $13.5 million has been set aside by the County from Colonial Downs revenues. That set aside fund and future set aside coupled with approximately $4.2 million in ARPA funds received in 2021 and 2022 should give the County its "share" of the $25 million broadband cost by the end of Fiscal Year 2022.
On December 30, 2021 the County received three request of proposals (RFPs) for Broadband Expansion Services. Proposals were received from Broadband Telecom Services, LLC of Kilmarnock, Cox Communications Hampton Roads, LLC and RiverStreet Networks. The County is currently in the contract negotiation phase with RiverStreet Networks.
The first phase of the project will involve the construction of a fiber optic ring that will serve as the backbone of the system. The total phasing schedule to connect all residents who are interested in service is being negotiated during contract development.
Work of the County's BAC (Spring 2019-Fall 2020)
The County’s Broadband Advisory Committee (BAC) was chartered on May 13, 2019 with the purpose of serving as an advisory committee to make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors to assist with the planning, administration, and implementation of New Kent County’s broadband plan. The BAC's charter ended September 30, 2020.
In Spring 2019, the Committee worked closely with a consultant, Rural Broadband Consulting, to encourage County residents and business owners to complete a broadband survey. Close to 900 respondents provided feedback and the consultant released the final report:
On January 29, 2020, the BAC presented its efforts to develop a New Kent County Strategic Broadband Plan, and its recommendation for expanding broadband service in the County:
On June 24, 2020, the BAC presented updated information and their updated recommendation to the Board of Supervisors:
On July 29, 2020, the BAC appeared before the Board of Supervisors again and provided the following documentation:
Feasibility Estimate Spreadsheet
Further documentation provided by the Broadband Advisory Committee to the Board of Supervisors following the July 29, 2020 meeting: