The Commonwealth of Virginia has accelerated its self-imposed deadline for universal broadband from 2028 to 2024. Late last week, the Commonwealth said it will use $700 million in ARPA funding to accelerate broadband deployment.
The $700 million comes from $4.3 billion in funding that Virginia is getting from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
At this point, about half of the previously unserved locations in the state have been reached, with about 233,500 remaining. The majority of the remaining connections “are obligated” to be made during the next 18 months, according to a press release.
Virginia Broadband ARPA Plans
Since 2018 when the 2028 universal broadband target initially was set, the Commonwealth has made approximately $124 million in grants that have connected 140,000 locations. It has invested $100 million split evenly between 2020 and this year in the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI), a public-private partnership.
The goal now is to finish the job more quickly than originally envisioned.
“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 Governor Ralph Northam at an event at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon announcing plans for the Virginia broadband ARPA funding. “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.”
ARPA includes a $350 billion Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funding program. The Treasury Department has released interim final rules that mandate symmetrical speed of 100 Mbps or higher for broadband deployments funded through the program, except where doing so is impractical due to topography, geography or cost. Kathryn de Wit, project director of the broadband access initiative at Pew Charitable Trusts told Telecompetitor last month that the speeds were the most aggressive the organization has seen from a government agency.