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Virginia Governor Announces $700 Million for Broadband

Gov. Ralph Northam has announced a plan to invest $700 million toward broadband infrastructure for unserved areas in Virginia. The funding for this investment comes from the American Rescue Plan.

Broadband fiber
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Friday the commonwealth’s plan to invest $700 million of American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds toward broadband infrastructure.

According to a press release, the funding will go toward deploying last-mile broadband infrastructure in unserved areas — part of a plan to close the digital divide in three years.

Virginia is one of many states making equitable broadband access efforts a priority, but questions remain on the best method of paying for it. The digital divide has already been closed for half of unserved locations, the release details.

The proposal will fast-track Northam’s previous goal of reaching equitable Internet access by 2028, which was made actionable through the Commonwealth Connect Report.

“The pandemic has reinforced how important high-quality broadband is for the health, education and economic opportunity, and we cannot afford to leave any community behind,” said Northam in the release. “With this historic $700 million investment, universal broadband is now within our reach.”

According to the release, $124 million in broadband grants have already been awarded.

Additionally, the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI) received $100 million in total from the administration and the General Assembly in 2020 and 2021. VATI is a public-private partnership offering financial support for broadband expansion efforts.

Earlier this year, Northam signed legislation to make permanent a pilot program that helps in connecting unserved areas by fostering collaboration between localities, electric utilities and Internet service providers. This program was launched in 2019 — prior to the COVID-19 pandemic that would increase the need for connectivity.