Va. allocates $30M to improve broadband access
Localities must pitch project ideas, apply for funding
Virginia is making $30 million in federal CARES Act funding to improve broadband access in underserved localities.
Eligible projects must be completed by the end of the year, which is within the time constraints for spending the federal funding. This would mean more Virginians could get access to high-speed, broadband service before 2020 ends, according to Northam’s statement. The program launches Oct. 9, and only localities are eligible to apply for funding.
“Broadband is to today’s economy like electricity was generations ago — when you have it, you can get ahead,” Northam said in a statement. “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.”
Examples of eligible projects include:
- Broadband infrastructure capable of delivering a minimum of 25Mbps/3Mbps to Virginians currently unserved, with limited overbuilding of existing infrastructure.
- Broadband service connection costs for passings or property with high cost for individual connections, no greater than $10,000 per connection. Examples of such connections are for passings with long driveways, on a private road, or that have costs associated with a rail or highway crossing.
- Cellular transmission equipment for parts of the commonwealth without cell service.
The State Council of Higher Education in Virginia estimates that 200,000 K-12 students and 60,000 college students in Virginia do not have access to broadband at home.
“Broadband access is a matter of equity, as the pandemic and the rise in virtual meetings and classes demonstrate,” Del. Roslyn Tyler (D-Brunswick), vice chairwoman of the Broadband Advisory Council, said in a statement. “Getting broadband access to rural and urban Virginia helps to ensure that everyone in Virginia moving forward together, and I applaud the governor for devoting CARES Act funding to this critical priority.”
Northam’s current budget proposals include $85 million in investments for broadband infrastructure, which align with his platform for universal broadband access. The CARES Act funding is separate from other broadband funding streams.
“Any part of Virginia without broadband risks being left behind in our increasingly digital world,” Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-Herndon), chairwoman of the Broadband Advisory Council, said in a statement. “This initiative will speed up the work of connecting every corner of Virginia, so that everyone has access to opportunity.”