Northam allocates $30 million to improve broadband access in underserved localities

Richmond

FILE – In this Feb. 2, 2019 file photo, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, left, gestures as his wife, Pam, listens during a news conference in the Governors Mansion at the Capitol in Richmond, Va. A law firm has completed its investigation into how a racist photo appeared on a yearbook page for Northam. Eastern Virginia Medical School said in a statement Tuesday, May 21 that the findings of the investigation will be announced at a press conference on Wednesday, May 22. Northam’s profile in the 1984 yearbook includes a photo of a man in blackface standing next to someone in Ku Klux Klan clothing. Northam denies being in the photo, which nearly ended his political career in February. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Governor Ralph Northam announced Wednesday that Virginia is allocating $30 million in funding from the federal CARES Act to improve broadband access in underserved localities.

“Broadband is to today’s economy like electricity was generations ago—when you have it, you can get ahead. High-speed internet is essential for students to connect to education, business to connect to the wider world, and citizens to connect to work,” said Governor Northam.

The program launches Friday, October 9, and only eligible localities may apply for funding. Eligible projects are those able to be completed within the time constraints on spending federal dollars — which means more Virginians could get connected to high-speed, broadband internet by the end of the year.

Additional information will be provided to local chief administrative officers. Detailed program and application information will be made available at commonwealthconnect.virginia.gov.

The following are examples of eligible projects. Projects not listed below, but related to broadband and telecommunications expansion will also be considered.

  • Broadband infrastructure capable of delivering a minimum of 25Mbps/3Mbps to Virginians currently unserved, with limited overbuilding of existing infrastructure.
  • Broadband service connection costs for passings or property with high cost for individual connections, no greater than $10,000 per connection. Examples of such connections are for passings with long driveways, on a private road, or that have costs associated with a rail or highway crossing.
  • Cellular transmission equipment for parts of the Commonwealth without cell service. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made this even more clear, as so much of our lives have moved to virtual platforms. Since day one of our administration, we have made it a priority to increase access to broadband, and I am pleased that we can help more Virginians make those connections now when they are needed most,” Northam continued.

The statement released Wednesday says the Virginia State Council of Higher Education estimates that 200,000 K-12 students and 60,000 college students in Virginia lack access to broadband at home.

“Universal broadband access has been a priority for the Northam administration, which has worked to support broadband infrastructure projects capable of connecting more than 108,000 homes and businesses. Governor Northam’s current budget proposals include $85 million in investments for broadband infrastructure,” the statement continued.


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