Federal funding comes from Bipartisan Infrastructure Law
Virginia is receiving $6.22 million in “Internet for All” federal grants funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced Thursday.
“As we continue to compete in the 21st century, it is crucial that we close the digital divide in Virginia,” U.S. Sen. Mark Warner said in a statement. “I’m glad to see this funding, courtesy of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act I was proud to negotiate, go towards ensuring that every corner of the commonwealth has access to affordable and reliable broadband.”
In 2021, former Gov. Ralph Northam pledged to provide broadband access across Virginia by 2024, moving up the deadline on his original pledge to achieve universal broadband access by 2028 due to federal COVID-19 relief funding that Virginia received in 2020 and 2021.
Virginia is currently the 27th most connected state in the country, but only 91.2% of Virginians have access to broadband internet with speeds of 100 mbps or faster, according to BroadbandNow, a trade site that publishes independent research on broadband and also provides data from the Federal Communications Commission. Thirteen percent of Virginia households don’t have internet access of any type, according to BroadbandNow.
In June 2022, Virginia received $219.8 million from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund, all of which the state planned to invest in broadband infrastructure projects. As reported by Virginia, estimates showed that investments made using the Capital Projects Fund would serve 28% of locations still lacking high-speed internet access in the state, according to a Treasury Department fact sheet.
Through the $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program, Virginia will receive almost $5 million to fund planning, infrastructure deployment and adoption programs to expand high-speed internet access.
The BEAD program grant will fund activities including:
- Supporting Virginia’s Commonwealth Connect plan, including creating a five-year action plan identifying Virginia’s broadband needs;
- Increasing the broadband office’s capacity;
- Establishing a Virginia Digital Opportunity Initiative Planning Grant Program to provide funding at the local and regional levels;
- And awarding funding to 128 local government units.
Virginia will receive $1.22 million through the $2.75 billion Digital Equity Act, which Virginia will use to help develop the Commonwealth’s Digital Opportunity Plan, including hiring a digital opportunity coordinator, fund sub-awards for planning and mini-grant programs at the regional level and other initiatives.
This $1.22 million in funding is the first of three grant programs established in the Digital Equity Act.
“We are committed to providing affordable, reliable, universal, high-speed internet access across the commonwealth and this announcement helps further our efforts to bridge Virginia’s digital divide,” Gov. Glenn Youngkin said in a statement. “Federal planning grant funding will allow us to ensure [that] every Virginia home, business and community anchor institution has a funded solution for broadband access by 2024.”
Passed in November 2021, the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, also known as the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, included a $65 billion investment to expand high-speed internet access across the U.S.
All U.S. states and six territories applied for grant funding from the Internet for All initiative, and grant awards will be announced on a rolling basis, according to a news release.