Spanberger Announces USDA ReConnect Funding for Central Virginia High-Speed Broadband Internet Infrastructure Projects

Last Year, the Congresswoman Led the Bipartisan Fight to Protect ReConnect Funding in the 2020 Budget Legislation Signed into Law by President Trump

LOUISA, V.A. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today announced funding for high-speed broadband internet infrastructure projects in Louisa, Orange, Goochland, and Powhatan Counties through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) ReConnect program.          

Last year, Spanberger successfully led the fight to protect ReConnect funding from elimination. Today’s announcement demonstrates why protecting this funding is so important: it will result in millions of dollars for rural high-speed internet infrastructure projects across the United States—including in Central Virginia.

During a press conference held today in Louisa County, Spanberger was joined by Central Virginia Electric Cooperative CEO Gary Wood, USDA Rural Utilities Services telecommunication program manager Richard Jenkins, and Louisa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bob Babyok to celebrate the USDA’s announcement of funding for high-speed broadband internet fiber deployment in Central Virginia. This loan and grant funding will be provided to the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative and distributed across its service area.

“Last August, I hosted my Rural Broadband Summit in Louisa County. At the event, I heard firsthand how a lack of reliable high-speed internet was impacting families, farmers, healthcare professionals, and small business owners across the Seventh District. This gap in connectivity creates a clear competitive disadvantage, and today, we are one step closer toward closing this digital divide,” said Spanberger. “Last year, I was proud to lead a 49-member push to protect ReConnect funding from elimination, and today’s announcement of ReConnect funding for Orange, Goochland, Powhatan, and Louisa Counties is welcome news for the people of Central Virginia. I’d like to thank the USDA for prioritizing rural economic development, and I’d especially like to thank the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative for their commitment to boosting connectivity across our Commonwealth. This ReConnect funding is about more than just dollar amounts—it is an investment in our rural communities and a sign of confidence that the Commonwealth’s rural counties are excellent places to raise a family, start a business, and retire.”

“CVEC is most grateful for the USDA award and, especially, for partnerships with our local, state and federal elected officials,” said Gary E. Wood, President and CEO Central Virginia Electric Cooperative and Firefly Fiber Broadband. “Their support of the CVEC fiber build is providing a permanent solution to bringing internet to the most rural areas of Central Virginia and expediting that process. Cooperatives are here to help their rural members whenever they can – whether it is bringing electricity to homes in the 1930s or internet to homes in the 2000s.”

According to the USDA, Central Virginia Electric Cooperative will use a $28 million ReConnect Program loan and grant combination to construct a fiber-to-the-premises network encompassing 704 square miles. The service area is expected to reach 17,023 households, 35 pre-subscribed businesses, 20 pre-subscribed farms, 15 educational facilities, 15 critical community facilities and six health care centers across Central Virginia—including in Goochland, Louisa, Orange, and Powhatan counties.

In October 2019, Spanberger called for U.S. House and U.S. Senate appropriators to include ReConnect funding in the final budget legislation after the U.S. Senate zeroed-out funding for the program in its FY 2020 Agriculture Appropriations bill.

And earlier in 2019, Spanberger introduced and passed an amendment to secure millions of additional dollars in funding for the ReConnect program in the House version of the FY 2020 Agriculture Appropriations bill.

BACKGROUND

Today’s announcement builds on Spanberger’s efforts to close the digital divide between the Seventh District’s rural communities and communities with reliable high-speed internet. Since arriving in the U.S. House, she has worked to expand high-speed broadband internet access across Central Virginia’s rural areas, including by:

  • Bringing awareness to the issue of rural broadband access. In August 2019, Spanberger hosted her Rural Broadband Summit in Louisa County to hear about how a lack of reliable broadband internet access is impacting families, farmers, first responders, and small business owners across Central Virginia.
  • Amplifying and collecting the stories of Central Virginians. Spanberger has worked to amplify and collect the stories of Central Virginians who are currently facing unnecessary challenges due to the absence of broadband internet in their community. Earlier this year, she collected these stories through her 2019 Rural Broadband Survey, in which she asked Central Virginians to describe how a lack of reliable broadband access has personally impacted them, their families, or their businesses.
  • Bringing the eConnectivity concerns of Central Virginians directly to USDA leadership. During her first House Agriculture Committee hearing, Spanberger asked USDA Secretary Perdue about his thoughts on expanding rural broadband. Spanberger also invited Secretary Perdue to visit her district to hear directly from Central Virginia farmers and dairy producers, and get their feedback on current USDA policies and 2018 Farm Bill implementation. He accepted her invitation. Click here for a full video of her remarks.
  • Working with colleagues to find common ground on rural broadband policy. Earlier this year, Spanberger announced her appointment to a new task force focused on expanding high-speed internet access in rural communities. The House Task Force on Rural Broadband provides coordination and leadership to increase investment in rural broadband internet infrastructure across the United States, and it will operate under an overarching goal to make sure all Americans have reliable access to high-speed internet by 2025. And as Co-Chair of the Blue Dog Coalition’s rural opportunity task force, she co-authored an op-ed on Fox News online to highlight the need to pursue smart, bipartisan rural broadband infrastructure policies.

Across the country, the ReConnect program partners with rural communities and local businesses to expand high-speed broadband internet infrastructure. Last month, Spanberger announced that the ReConnect program is now receiving funding applications for local broadband internet projects. ReConnect applications can be submitted at www.usda.gov/reconnect.

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