DID YOU KNOW: Spanberger’s Legislation to Increase Broadband Internet Speeds Signed into Law as Part of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

The Congresswoman’s Speedy Updates Act Will Update Speed Thresholds Used to Determine High-Speed Internet Connectivity in Central Virginia & Across the Country

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  As Virginia prepares to receive major investments in physical infrastructure projects from the bipartisan infrastructure law, U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger’s legislation to improve Central Virginia customers’ high-speed internet speeds has also been signed into law as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

According to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) 2020 Broadband Deployment Report, nearly 25 percent of rural Virginians lack access to reliable high-speed internet, compared to two percent of Virginians living in cities. However, the percentage of Central Virginians without reliable broadband access could be much higher. Since 2015, the FCC’s broadband mapping data has relied on the same speed threshold to define whether an area can be said to have adequate broadband service. However, this threshold is already outdated due to new and emerging internet technologies — meaning Virginians whom the FCC categorizes as having broadband internet access could still lack the ability to connect to cutting-edge internet services.

Spanberger’s Speedy Updates Act — which was included in full as part of the bipartisan infrastructure bill — addresses this threshold problem and ensures that new broadband internet networks are built with up-to-date upload and download capabilities. Specifically, her legislation requires the Government Accountability Office to conduct an evaluation and write a report on the FCC’s existing process for establishing, reviewing, and updating its speed thresholds for broadband internet service.

“During the pandemic, we saw the urgent need to close the digital divide in rural areas — and the bipartisan infrastructure law takes the long overdue step of recognizing broadband internet as the vital utility that it is. With these record federal investments in high-speed internet connectivity, we also need to take proper actions to make sure broadband internet deployment is keeping pace with the speeds businesses, families, and communities will need long into the future,” said Spanberger. “By requiring the FCC to prioritize the latest internet speeds, the Speedy Updates Act reflects the growing need for faster downloads and uploads in rural America. With this additional information, more Central Virginia communities will benefit from improved local internet access — and we will prevent homes and businesses from experiencing lags in their service while using the latest apps and programs.”

Spanberger originally reintroduced her bipartisan bill as standalone legislation in March 2021. Spanberger’s legislation was originally passed in the U.S. House last year as part of the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, which she helped introduce in June 2020.

In addition to Spanberger’s Speedy Updates Act, the bipartisan infrastructure law includes a minimum allocation of $100 million to Virginia to support the Commonwealth’s ongoing broadband internet expansion efforts. And under this new law, more than 1.9 million Virginians will be eligible for the expanded Affordability Connectivity Benefit — which will help more working families in Virginia afford high-speed internet access.

Last week, Spanberger brought U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to Central Virginia to highlight Virginia’s major wins in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

BACKGROUND

Spanberger’s Speedy Updates Act builds on her efforts to close the digital divide in the Seventh District’s rural communities.

In February 2020, Spanberger announced $28 million in federal funding for high-speed broadband internet infrastructure projects in Central Virginia — including in Louisa, Orange, Goochland, and Powhatan Counties — through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Program. In 2019, Spanberger successfully led the fight to protect ReConnect funding from elimination, and in 2020, she worked to strengthen funding for the program in the fiscal year 2021 funding deal signed into law by President Donald Trump.

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