ABINGDON, Va. (WJHL/WFXR) — Virginia Gov. Northam announced Friday that Virginia plans to invest $700 million in American Rescue Plan funding to close the digital divide within the next three years.
This proposal would provide broadband to unserved areas, accelerating Northam’s 10-year goal for achieving universal internet access from 2028 to 2024.
The majority of connections will be obligated within the next 18 months.
“It’s time to close the digital divide in our Commonwealth and treat internet service like the 21st century necessity that it is — not just a luxury for some, but an essential utility for all,” said Northam. “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. With this historic $700 million investment, universal broadband is now within our reach. I am grateful to Senator Warner for fighting to include this funding in the American Rescue Plan, which will be key to the success of local connectivity efforts and to ensuring every Virginian has affordable, reliable, and equitable access to high-speed internet.”
Northam will make the announcement in-person on Friday, July 16 at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon and will be joined by U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, State Sen. Janet Howell, and Del. Luke Torian — chairs of the General Assembly’s money committees.
Also in attendance will include State Sen. Jennifer Boysko and Del. Roslyn Tyler, who lead Virginia’s Broadband Advisory Council.
WFXR News will stream the announcement here at WFXRtv.com, on Facebook, and on the WFXR News app.
Northam announced that 233,500 locations within the Commonwealth remain without internet.
“With telehealth and telework becoming permanent staples across the nation, access to broadband is more critical than ever,” said Warner. “Earlier this year, I was proud to help deliver more than $3.7 billion in direct fiscal relief for the Commonwealth through the American Rescue Plan, including hundreds of millions of dollars for broadband. I’m hopeful that my friends in the General Assembly will use $700 million of that funding to expand access to broadband, thereby creating economic opportunity and ensuring that every Virginian can meaningfully participate in our 21st century economy.”
The Commonwealth has awarded approximately $124 million in broadband grants since 2018, which has connected over 140,000 homes, businesses and community anchors.
Virginia is on track to becoming the first state to achieve universal broadband service.
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