Funds to expand broadband access
Column by Mark Warner
Earlier this week, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, Congressman Tom Perriello and I announced that Virginia will receive over $21.5 million to expand broadband and high-speed Internet access throughout Central and Southside Virginia.
The funding – awarded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program from funding available through the economic stimulus package – will go toward projects that will expand broadband networks to rural and underserved areas of Virginia.
The Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative will receive $16 million to add 465 miles of new fiber to connect 121 elementary and high schools in 12 counties to an existing 800-mile high-speed network and will lead to affordable high-speed Internet service to local consumers in the surrounding areas.
The Virginia Tech Foundation will receive $5.5 million to add 110 miles of open access fiber-optic network between Blacksburg and Bedford City that will provide high-speed connections to Virginia Tech’s main campus in Blacksburg and the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine in Roanoke as well as the six counties in between.
In addition to creating installation and infrastructure jobs in the short-term, these stimulus dollars will serve as a much-needed investment in our rural communities and will help spur the type of economic growth that will help attract 21st century jobs.
This week’s announcement is a step in the right direction, but more work must be done throughout Virginia to help connect all of our homes, schools, and businesses to high-speed Internet. And more grants from the stimulus package must be distributed in a more timely manner so that we can create more jobs and get our economy back on track.
Several other regions and organizations in Virginia have their own broadband grant applications pending, and this week’s announcement will not impact the ongoing evaluation of applications for other worthy Virginia projects. The next round of funding will be announced later this spring, and our office will continue working to bring more stimulus dollars into Virginia to expand our broadband networks.