CBS19: Infrastructure bill could mean broadband expansion

CBS19, ANNE-PARKER COLEMAN

Earlier this week, the U.S. Senate voted to pass a landmark infrastructure bill. This $1.2 trillion bill is vital to President Joe Biden’s agenda at large, but if passed through the House, its effects will have a major impact on this area.  

Highway repairs, train track improvements and bridge replacements are just a few of the benefits that Virginia could see if this infrastructure bill makes it through the House.

But the most notable for Central Virginia could be major investments in broadband Internet. Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-7th) says getting the entirety of Virginia connected is essential for the future.

“Rural communities risk being left behind as broadband connectivity leaves some communities disconnected, so making record investments here in Virginia and across the country is incredibly vital,” she said. 

In conjunction with the bill, the American Rescue Plan will allocate $700 billion toward expediting last-mile broadband infrastructure to unserved areas like Albemarle County. 

“We think using these monies to get everyone in the county to have a broadband connection,” said Bucky Walsh, the chairman of the Albemarle Broadband Authority.

He says this will also get residents connected more efficiently. 

“Given that this is going to be a ten-fold increase in the amount of money that was being provided for grant funding, you could therefore reasonably assume that things are going to move 10 times as fast as they were moving,” he said. “So in the past, we were delighted to get awards that allowed us to hook up 800 people to fiber in one year or 1,600 people to fiber, but this time, we’re going after 6,000.”

Another historic mark of this bill is its bipartisan nature.

“What this bill speaks to is the fact that when we can get in a room and focus on the needs of our nation put some of the partisanship aside we can make good legislation,” said Spanberger.

Other funding proposed with this legislation includes COVID-19 relief for small businesses, public health systems and clean water. The bill still has to pass through the U.S. House before it can make its way to Biden’s desk. 

If cleared, Spanberger believes this legislation will allow not just the state of Virginia to remain competitive with changing infrastructure but the nation as a whole.

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