Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) said on Friday that the state will invest $700 million in American Rescue Plan funding by 2024 to achieve universal broadband coverage. This extra investment shortens the governor’s original ambition to link every home to high-speed broadband by four years.
The epidemic had a significant impact on how people worked and went to school, prompting many elected officials to redouble their efforts to safeguard citizens’ access to the internet. More than 233,000 homes and companies in Virginia, according to Northam, do not have access to broadband.
“It’s time to end the digital divide in our Commonwealth and treat Internet access as the 21st-century need it is — not just a luxury for some, but a basic utility for all,” Northam said in a statement released Friday. “The epidemic has highlighted the importance of high-speed broadband for health, education, and economic opportunities, and we cannot afford to fail any community.”
On August 2nd, the Virginia General Assembly will convene for a special session to plan how the cash will be spent.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) praised the financing at a news conference announcing the investment on Friday, promising that Virginia lawmakers would work with the governor’s office to create future-proof connections.
“When we talk about broadband, let’s be clear: we’re working under the governor’s leadership to get significantly greater speeds, not some slow speed like 25 down and three up,” Warner said on Friday. “So you can truly see someone on a Zoom?” says the narrator.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommended that the Federal Communications Commission reconsider its existing minimum broadband requirement of 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload speeds in a study released in July. According to the GAO, most organizations in 2021 will be unable to operate successfully at such modest rates.
President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan in March, providing states with billions in COVID-19 assistance. Virginia was awarded more than $4 billion in relief funds, which will be used to ensure universal broadband access.
“Fiber, satellite, and possibly wireless,” Warner said on Friday. “This is the kind of future we’ve all fantasized about for a long time.”