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Governor Ralph Northam announces broadband expansion plan

Published: Dec. 13, 2021 at 6:37 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Several political figures gathered in central Virginia Monday to make a big announcement about connectivity in the commonwealth.

Virginia is taking steps to be one of the first states to achieve universal internet access. The state is allocating more than $722 million to provide universal broadband to 70 localities.

Right now, the plan looks at improving broadband to these localities by 2022, but the bigger goal ahead is universal coverage for the entire state.

Monday’s announcement included the addition of new grants that will ultimately help bring high-speed internet to everyone. With the additional money, it will close 90% of Virginia’s accessibility gap.

“If we do not have universal coverage, we are staring at a potential future where the divisions and the divides between those who have broadband connectivity, and those who do not, will be too significant,” 7th District Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger said.

Northam has been pushing for this since he took office in 2018. But he says the pandemic highlighted the need for access. He and Spanberger say it’s something that will impact everyone, whether it be students, parents, farmers, or businesses.

“We’re gonna be able to attract more businesses we’re going to be able to ensure that people who want to live in a vibrant and healthy rural community can can do so can work from home no matter where their job is,” Spanberger stated.

The funding is from the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative and the federal American Rescue Plan Act, which will help connect more than 278,000 households, businesses, and institutions to high-speed internet.

In central Virginia, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission and Firefly will help build fiber broadband to 36,283 unserved locations and achieve universal coverage.

There have been other steps to make this possible, too.

“It’s also a direct result of purposeful choices that we’re making at the federal level, and then our local partners, at the state and local level, they’re leveraging federal dollars and they’re putting the same prioritization on broadband connectivity,” Spanberger said.

The plan is currently on track to provide universal broadband in Virginia by 2024, but Spanberger says that path could change and get delayed if policies change under governor-elect Youngkin’s new administration.

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