8News: Broadband expansion in Central Virginia draws praise from state, local leaders

8NEWS, NICOLE DANTZLER

Millions of dollars will go toward high-speed internet for more than a dozen rural counties in Virginia.

Governor Ralph Northam, Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and Representative Abigail Spanberger were all there for this announcement Monday.

The funding includes a $79 million grant provided to the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission which includes Powhatan, Louisa and Goochland counties.

The planning district commission, which covers 13 counties, said it’s partnering with Firefly Broadband to build fiber broadband to 36,283 unserved locations and achieve universal coverage.

Funds from the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI) grant and American Rescue Plan helped Virginia provide more than $722 million for universal broadband infrastructure in 70 localities.

The money will support 35 projects and connect more than 278,000 homes and businesses to high-speed internet.

Eleanor Andrews lives in Goochland, one of the areas that will get part of the $79 million grant. She said getting broadband in her home will help to bring her family closer together.

“I am so glad that we’re going to finally get broadband, because I missed a lot of years with my grandchildren,” she said. “They no longer wanted to visit me because we had no broadband here.”

Governor Ralph Northam revealed Virginia’s path to universal broadband coverage with a map from 2018.

The map shows areas in blue that had broadband access and he compared it to another map showing areas in the state will soon have access to broadband in 2022.

“Broadband access impacts every facet of our daily lives, from education to business to health care,” said Governor Northam in a press release. “It’s a necessity for navigating today’s digital world.”

Representative Abigail Spanberger said it took for local leaders to vocalize the need for broadband, and the approval of federal money to get Virginia on this path of broadband coverage.

“It is expensive and it is a challenge. Starting back with the CARES Act, we gave localities funding toward broadband connectivity because they needed it during the height of the pandemic,” she said.

Virginia expects to achieve universal broadband access by 2024.

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