RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam announced that Virginia is allocating $30 million in funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to improve broadband access in underserved localities.
Localities must apply for the funding, and eligible projects are those able to be completed within the time constraints on spending federal dollars, which means more Virginians could get connected to high-speed, broadband internet by the end of the year.
“Broadband is to today’s economy like electricity was generations ago—when you have it, you can get ahead,” said Governor Northam. “High-speed internet is essential for students to connect to education, business to connect to the wider world, and citizens to connect to work. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this even more clear, as so much of our lives have moved to virtual platforms. Since day one of our administration, we have made it a priority to increase access to broadband, and I am pleased that we can help more Virginians make those connections now, when they are needed most.”
The State Council of Higher Education in Virginia estimates that 200,000 K-12 students and 60,000 college students in Virginia lack access to broadband at home. Universal broadband access has been a priority for the Northam administration, which has worked to support broadband infrastructure projects capable of connecting more than 108,000 homes and businesses. Governor Northam’s current budget proposals include $85 million in investments for broadband infrastructure.
The CARES Act funding allocated to this initiative is separate from other broadband funding streams. Localities are encouraged to creatively address the digital divide, including projects that address infrastructure or the cost of broadband services.