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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
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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.