Montgomery County Broadband Initiatives

Now more than ever, a reliable Internet connection has become less of a luxury and more of a necessity for work and education.

The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors has adopted a goal of ensuring adequate broadband service is available for all citizens, and the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development (MCDED) is assisting in carrying out that vision. 

Included below are updates on MCDED's ongoing broadband projects in Montgomery County:

Montgomery County and Gigabeam Receive Nearly $920,000 Virginia Telecommunications Initiative Grant

In March of 2021, Montgomery County, in partnership with Gigabeam, received a $919,569 Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) grant to help extend the County's broadband network. The funds will help bring fixed wireless broadband access to 1,292 serviceable units in Shawsville, Elliston, Lafayette, and Allegheny Springs. 

The award was part of $20.1 million in 2021 VATI grants announced by Governor Ralph Northam, allowing for improvements to broadband infrastructure across 17 different localities in Virginia. Administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), Virginia has invested over $73.1 million through VATI since 2018. 

Read the full Governor's announcement for the funding and see the other 2021 VATI grant recipients here

Wireless On Wheels (WOW) Initiative

While Montgomery County continues to take steps toward providing a permanent broadband solution for unserved and underserved citizens, the COVID-19 pandemic greatly exasperated the need for reliable high-speed Internet access, particularly for children participating in remote learning. 

To provide an immediate solution for school-aged children lacking sufficient Internet access, Montgomery County started the Wireless On Wheels (WOW) initiative using 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding.

The County purchased 20 solar panel-equipped carts that emit free wireless hotspots, which were positioned throughout Montgomery County at easily accessible locations such as fire stations and churches. Locations were chosen based on the unserved and underserved areas determined in the broadband survey completed in early 2020.

The hotspots for the majority of the carts are powered through Verizon, while five carts placed in more remote areas are the County are serviced by HughesNet via an additional satellite dish.

A student works on a computer connected to the free Wireless on Wheels wi-fi

Photo Credit: WDBJ

Click here to see the WOW Carts featured on WDBJ7 News.

Broadband Study

In early 2020, Thompson & Litton, with subcontractor Blue Ridge Advisory Services, wrapped up an extensive assessment of local broadband access. Montgomery County, in partnership with the NRV Regional Commission and the City of Radford, pursued the broadband study after receiving a $30,000 grant from the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) at the end of 2018.

The goal of the broadband study was to determine any broadband service area gaps within the two localities, as well as assess any resources that could be utilized in improving service and access for citizens. 

One challenge for Montgomery County is that while there is strong service within the incorporated Towns of Blacksburg and Christiansburg, there are pockets of unserved areas throughout the rest of the County. The final broadband study report showed that there were roughly 3,000 unserved households in Montgomery County, in addition to nearly 6,000 that are underserved. 

Moving forward, the results of the broadband study will be used in discussions with local providers about potentially expanding their existing services and as background information when applying for broadband grants, and can also help the County determine how to best allocate funding. Providing adequate broadband service for all citizens is a top priority for Montgomery County, particularly as COVID-19 has highlighted the need for high-speed Internet for school, remote work, and telehealth. 

As of 2021, the County is undergoing an update to the broadband survey data in order to determine any changes to broadband service that may have occurred throughout the last year during the pandemic.

Contact Us

The Montgomery County Department of Economic Development (MCDED) offers a number of free and confidential services and resources to help companies large and small. We welcome the opportunity to provide direct assistance to companies interested in starting, expanding or relocating a business in Montgomery County, Blacksburg and Christiansburg. Contact us today!