Virginia Wants to Pump $250M into Universal Access Broadband

Gov. Ralph Northam announced a proposed $50 million installment to expand the state’s Virginia Telecommunications Initiative in fiscal year 2020. In total, Northam hopes to infuse as much as $250 million into the program.

by WTKR-TV / December 18, 2018
Government Technology/David Kidd

(TNS) — Gov. Ralph Northam announced Virginia’s expanded investment in universal broadband access, something Northam believes gives the state an edge in bringing economic progress to the Commonwealth.

“Broadband Internet is inarguably a necessity for participation in a 21st-century economy, and many Virginians have been left without quality access for far too long,” said Gov. Northam on what his office is calling a major investment in the state’s support of broadband infrastructure. Something his office said is the “first installment of a historic commitment to expanding access to all unserved Virginians.”

The proposal would increase the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI). VATI is used to incentivizes Internet service providers to expand their service to Virginians that are unserved, to $50 million in Fiscal Year 2020.

$4 million is already appropriated annually to VATI. But the governor’s office says that the type of investment increases proposed would increase the annual appropriation significantly.

“By ending this disconnect, we can better attract and support business and entrepreneurship, educate all Virginia students, expand access to cost-saving telehealth services, and more. We have an opportunity to accelerate our progress on expanding access to quality broadband Internet — this budget reflects the priority my administration will place on reaching this important goal,” added Northam.

According to Northam’s office, the governor envisions these commitments as the first installments of a multi-year investment totaling $250 million over the coming years, providing connection speeds significantly greater than 10 megabits (10,000,000 bits) per second. For comparison, standard dial-up speeds are 56 kilobits (56,000 bits) per second.

“This investment provides critical financial assistance to supplement construction costs for private broadband providers to extend their services to connect unserved Virginians,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “Creating strong, competitive communities in all regions of the state is critical to the Commonwealth’s vibrant economy, and the additional investments in VATI will prepare communities to build, utilize, and capitalize on telecommunications infrastructure.”

Northam will share the full details of his office’s structurally balanced budget plan when he addresses the Joint Money Committees on December 18. His office says the proposal features additional investments, as well as a plan to put Virginia on a path to commit 8 percent of its total budget in reserves by the end of the Northam administration.

Northam will unveil additional budget proposals next week. For more information on the schedule of events, click here.

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