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Virginia to invest $700 million in broadband infrastructure

(WDBJ7)
Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 12:25 PM EDT
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ABINGDON, Va. (WWBT) - With the goal to achieve universal broadband by 2024, Governor Ralph Northam plans to invest $700 million from American Rescue Plan funding in broadband infrastructure for underserved areas.

This investment cuts the governor’s original timeline for achieving universal broadband down by four years.

As outlined in the joint statement Northam and the General Assembly leaders released in May, this funding comes from the $4.3 billion allocated to Virginia through the federal American Rescue Plan funding.

“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,” Northam said.

There are an estimated 233,500 locations with underserved broadband and most are in rural areas of the state.

“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,” said Northam. “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.”

Since 2018, an estimated $124 million has been spent on broadband, connecting 140,00 homes, business and community anchors across Virginia.

Northam announced the plan Friday at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon and was joined by U.S. Senator Mark Warner, State Senator Janet Howell, and Delegate Luke Torian.

“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,” Warner said.

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