Gov. Northam announces $700 million investment to achieve universal broadband by 2024

Investment comes from American Rescue Plan funding, according to Northam’s office

By 2024, Virginia plans to have universal broadband — expediting the Commonwealth’s original goal by four years.

On Friday at the Southwest Virginia High Education Center at 1 p.m., Gov. Northam is set to announce that the state plans to invest $700 million in American Rescue Plan funding to make that a reality. Originally, the goal was to achieve universal broadband in Virginia by 2028. But according to Northam’s office, this funding allows for the state to expedite that goal.

For rural areas like Roanoke County, the move could impact the lives of thousands of people.

“It’s vital to economic growth is also important for our citizens as far as telehealth and medicine, public safety, it’s important for distance learning,” Roanoke County Supervisor Martha Hooker said.

According to Northam’s office, the majority of connections will be made within the next 18 months. The governor’s office said that while Northam reported that the state has successfully “bridged half of the digital divide,” around 233,500 unserved locations remain in the Commonwealth.

“it is safe to say with what the governor is doing today, there is no state in America that has as comprehensive a plan and this firm have a commitment to provide broadband to every home across the Commonwealth by 2024,” Virginia Senator Mark Warner said.

Since 2018, the governor’s office said Virginia has awarded around $124 million in broadband grants, connecting more than 140,000 homes, businesses and community staples.

Below is part of Northam’s statement:

“It’s time to close the digital divide in our Commonwealth and treat internet service like the 21st-century necessity that it is — not just a luxury for some, but an essential utility for all. The pandemic has reinforced how important high-quality broadband is for the health, education, and economic opportunity, and we cannot afford to leave any community behind. With this historic $700 million investment, universal broadband is now within our reach. I am grateful to Senator Warner for fighting to include this funding in the American Rescue Plan, which will be key to the success of local connectivity efforts and to ensuring every Virginian has affordable, reliable, and equitable access to high-speed internet.”

Gov. Ralph Northam