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New federal programs offer Virginia households a subsidy for affordable high-speed internet

A Comcast truck outside the Virginia Capitol.
A Comcast truck outside the Virginia Capitol.(Ned Oliver, Virginia Mercury)
Published: May. 17, 2022 at 6:52 AM EDT
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Federal and state officials are rolling out a fleet of new programs in an expansive effort to bring faster and less expensive internet to all Virginians, especially those who have had trouble connecting in the past.

The Biden administration announced last week an agreement with internet providers that will effectively offer free internet access to low-income households.

“High-speed internet is not a luxury any longer. It’s a necessity,” President Joe Biden said at a rose garden event last week to announce the plan, alongside representatives from participating companies and members of Congress.

The agreement builds on an internet subsidy that is part of the massive infrastructure spending bill Congress passed last year. Both Virginia Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner supported the law. Warner, a longtime proponent of broader internet access, was one of the lawmakers who negotiated the $1 trillion infrastructure package.

“We’ve made great progress in expanding broadband in Virginia, but too many Virginians still face challenges in accessing internet due to high costs. These steps to lower internet costs for families are critical to address that gap,” Warner and Kaine said in a joint statement on the deal.

In addition to that deal, the U.S. Commerce Department on Friday launched a $45 billion “Internet for All” initiative. States can apply for grants to build infrastructure or develop education projects that can bring fast internet to rural areas and other communities who have not been connected online.

The initiatives are part of a massive push to make high-speed internet more affordable and attainable – an effort that has been in the works for years but is getting new cash inflows in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic demonstrated the urgency for internet access as people relied on remote connections for medical visits, school, and work.

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.(Virginia Mercury)

The Virginia Mercury is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

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