CBS19: Thousands of people in Virginia without broadband access

CBS19, CARLY HAYNES

A virtual roundtable was held on Thursday to discuss the status of broadband across the Commonwealth, including parts of Central Virginia.

It included Governor Ralph Northam’s Chief Broadband Adviser Evan Feinman, Representative Abigail Spanberger (VA-5), industry partners, and other broadband-specialized groups.

Feinman estimates 350,000 homes and businesses don’t have broadband access in Virginia.

In 2018, Northam created a goal of statewide coverage taking no more than 10 years. Since then, 108,000 connections have been made.

Aside from access, there’s a large affordability problem. According to Feinman, 1-to-1.5 million Virginians qualify as low- or moderate-income.  In times of financial stress, the Internet is one of the first bills to go unpaid.

While telecom providers aren’t turning off Internet access, bills can still accumulate over time. He says this means Virginians are restricted from core services, which are especially imperative during coronavirus.

“It’s young children whose educational quality is diminished, or right now, non-existent if they can’t tele-educate; it’s the elderly who can’t avail themselves of telehealth; it’s our veteran population who can’t access telehealth or telepsychiatry,” Feinman said. “And those are the most people living in rural areas on a per capita basis.”

Feinman said they hope to get tens of thousands more Virginians online by this time next year.

To learn more about broadband in the Commonwealth, you can go here.

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