SCOTT COUNTY, Va. (WJHL) — Millions of dollars are being investigated in broadband internet through the United States Department of Agriculture “Reconnect Program.”
The investments are said to increase e-connectivity, benefiting thousands of households in rural Virginia.
Our sister-station WJHL, Pheben Kassahun explains what this partnership means for those living in Southwest Virginia.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is partnering up with the Scott County Telephone Cooperative to provide a $9 million grant for a project that will finish up fiber in Scott County.
“Nowadays, fiber is not just something nice to have. High-speed internet is not just something nice to have. It is a necessity in the 21st century,” USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Bette Brand said.
According to Brand, it is a necessity that is even more important now.
“Especially with COVID, children have had the need for having online learning, and you can’t do that without any of the programs and stuff,” Brand said. “They need high-speed internet to continue their education. Adults need the ability to access healthcare remotely, where they can stay safely away from other individuals that may be sick.”
According to a study by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), nearly one-fourth of the rural population in America, which is roughly 14.5 million, lack access to fixed broadband services.
“And yes, the terrain and the remoteness makes it difficult but really, in order to compete internationally and with businesses for the children to be able to continue their education, all of that is very much needed. Just as much here, as it is in any rural area,” Brand said.
Rep. Morgan Griffith said not only will this help businesses but farmers too.
“Most people don’t realize it but farmers today are very much computerized and use the internet to make their product more efficient,” Griffith said.
He said, however, the task will not come easy and asks for everyone’s patience as they work to provide broadband in these areas.
“It is very difficult to get the fiber laid into every nook and cranny, every hollow in mountains of Southwest Virginia and Central Appalachia,” Griffith said. “So, this is one of the challenges that we face both at the state and federal level.”
Construction for aerial fiber placement will start on January 1, 2021 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.