Virginia expects to become one of the first states to achieve universal broadband access by 2024 thanks to a combination of public and private funding.
Governor Ralph Northam announced yesterday that the commonwealth expects more than $2 billion in total broadband funding, with local and private sector funds adding to $874 million that the state has appropriated since 2018.
The commonwealth started its broadband program, the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative, in 2017 to fund public-private partnerships to extend broadband service to areas lacking broadband. When the most recent application round closed in September, the program had received 57 applications from 84 localities, requesting $943 million to connect more than 250,000 Virginia homes and businesses.
These applications, now under review, will benefit from $1.15 billion in private and local matching funds. Funding is expected to be awarded by the end of the year.
“Broadband is as critical today as electricity was in the last century,” Governor Northam said in a prepared 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.”
Since 2018, Governor Northam and the General Assembly have awarded $124 million in grants to connect more than 140,000 homes, businesses, and community organizations. The Virginia Telecommunication Initiative has awarded 39 projects in 41 different counties. According to Northam’s office, the commonwealth has cut the digital divide in Virginia by 65%.
The state also has directed a large part of the money allotted to the state in the American Rescue Plan Act toward broadband.