About 400 residents in one of the county’s most rural areas will soon have an internet connection.
One hundred customers in King George County will get a signal, too.
Aquia District Supervisor Cindy Shelton summed up her constituents’ reaction to the news as “incredulous.”
“The most awesome thing about it is, everyone said no, it’ll never happen,” said Shelton. “There are people who absolutely believed we would never get it.”
On Wednesday, Stafford County secured an $874,478 Virginia Telecommunication Initiative grant that will not only bring broadband Internet service to homes in the rural Widewater region of the county, but to another 100 waterfront homes in King George County as well.
“As recently as last week, we had a meeting to discuss a Plan B in the event the grant money would not be awarded,” said Shelton. “Despite us saying just wait, some [residents] went out and bought their own, paying local companies thousands of dollars to get broadband.”
Shelton said the quest to deliver broadband to one of Stafford’s rural areas was a long one, but said the process succeeded due to a large number of people focused on getting something accomplished together.
“We had all the data, we had the names of people who wanted it, the signatures,” said Shelton. “We had meetings and went door to door trying to do everything we could do.”
The grant will fund 80 percent of Widewater’s total broadband price tag, which is expected to cost just over $1 million.
Shelton said the county’s Economic Development Authority will kick in another $50,000 towards the project, the county will provide in-kind land use contributions and the provider, KGI Communications of King George, will provide the funding required to reach the match point of the grant, as well as the personnel and the associated equipment needed to make the signal available for customers.
KGI Communications was the only broadband provider to respond to Stafford’s solicitation for interested bidders in the project.
Representatives from the broadband provider estimate the number of potential broadband customers covered by the grant will be 120 homes in Widewater, 84 along Aquia Creek Road and 216 at Marlborough Point. Another 100 waterfront homes in King George County will also benefit from the new service.
After paying an initial installation fee of approximately $350, those choosing to receive the new broadband service can expect to pay anywhere from $80 to $290 per month, depending on the level of service that they select.
Michele Wido, president of KGI Communications, said the broadband signal for Stafford’s Widewater area would originate at an existing communications tower on Caledon Road in King George. From there, the signal will be transmitted to a receiver at Widewater State Park, then on to small cell antennas mounted on utility poles every two miles throughout the area.
Fiber optic cable, which will also be installed as part of the project, will then feed the broadband signal to residents.
Broadband services will reach Widewater residents first, then Aquia Creek Road and finally Marlborough Point. Wido said a tower will be constructed at Marlborough Point to reach customers whose homes are either surrounded by high trees or are obstructed in some other way along the waterfront.
Wido estimates the project will be completed—start to finish—in about one year.
Andrew Spence, Stafford County’s community engagement director, said work on the project is expected to begin in the spring.
“The state will send us a schedule and [the county] will work with them to begin the process,” said Spence.
As a result of $18.3 million awarded in grants statewide through the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative, over 36,000 households, businesses and communities in 12 rural locations throughout the state are now targeted to receive broadband service.