by Tyler Arnold
Virginia is on pace to have universal broadband access throughout the commonwealth by 2024 following a record number of local and private sector applications to match state investments, Gov. Ralph Northam announced.
After the most recent application window closed, the state received 57 applications from 84 localities for about $943 million worth of state funding, which leverages about $1.15 billion worth of private and local matching funds. In total, this amounts to an investment larger than $2 billion, which the governor’s office estimates will connect more than 250,000 homes to broadband internet.
“Broadband is as critical today as electricity was in the last century,” Northam said in a statement. “Making sure more Virginians can get access to it has been a priority since I took office, and the pandemic pushed us all to move even faster. Virginia is now on track to achieve universal broadband by 2024, which means more connections, more investments, easier online learning, and expanded telehealth options, especially in rural Virginia.”
Localities requested the funding through the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative grant program, which was launched in 2017 to fund public-private partnerships to expand broadband services.
“Ensuring that rural Virginians have access to broadband is the number one way we can make sure they have equal access to the economic, educational, and health opportunities that broadband provides,” Del. Roslyn Tyler, D-Jarratt, said in a statement. Tyler is the Broadband Advisory Council vice chair.
“No Virginian should be left behind,” Tyler said. “Thanks to Governor Northam’s commitment to get universal broadband done, we’re seeing record levels of public and private sector matching funds, and we’ll have this critical infrastructure available to all Virginians more quickly than we imagined.”
When Northam took office in 2018, he set the goal for universal broadband at 2028, but federal funding through the American Rescue Plan helped accelerate that date. The General Assembly approved about $700 million from the relief package to speed up the broadband program.
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Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and West Virginia for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.
Photo “Ralph Northam” by Mark Warner CC BY 2.0.