Rep. Spanberger and White House officials host Broadband Summit for Central Virginians

Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 4:24 PM EDT
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CULPEPER, Va. (WVIR) - People living in rural parts of Virginia too often can’t get broadband internet. 7th District Representative Abigail Spanberger says she is working to get this fixed, along with the White House.

“We’re now at the point where we are in that last last mile, trying to finish the job, and funding now is really critical,” Orange County Supervisor James White said.

White was among a group gathered Tuesday, April 19, to voice frustrations over slow internet connections.

“The thing that caused me some real consternation was last March,” Culpeper resident Michelle North said. “The kids had been there for a while, the jetpacks were getting used up, and then I realized I have to do our taxes and I had no internet to work off to do taxes.”

North says she relies on internet hotspots, which can be inconsistent. So much so, that she had to give up her spot on the School Board.

“I resigned as chairman several months before the end of my term because it was wasn’t fair to the populace. It wasn’t fair to my colleagues,” she said.

Students around Culpeper also have issues with reliable connections. They’ve invested in setting up WiFi hotspots in parking lots for students.

“All the parking lots of the schools became areas where parents could drive their kids, download assignments, and work there in the parking lot. Not a very effective fair way of doing schoolwork,” North said.

“This is our opportunity for the 7th District of Virginia to make sure that these folks when they head back to Washington are bringing back the message of what is or isn’t working here in Virginia,” Rep. Spanberger said. “All aspects of our communities really are driven by our ability to connect or not connect.”

The Infrastructure Bill is helping to fund broadband access across the commonwealth.

“You shouldn’t have to choose between the place that you love and the job that you want or the place where you can get connectivity,” Andy Berke with U.S. Department of Commerce said.

The issue now is making sure FCC maps accurately show gaps in coverage.

“Congress basically said the maps, they’re not telling you the whole truth and people are hiding in plain sight,” White House Senior Advisor and Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator Mitch Landrieu said. “Whether it’s the electrical grid or whether, it’s the laying of high speed - internet and fiber - whether it’s on coal to underground, do it in a resilient way.”

“We’re going parcel by parcel, essentially home by home, farm by farm, to ensure that we know where those houses are connected or not,” Rep. Spanberger said.

The updated maps are expected to be released in September.

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