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Spanberger hosts virtual forum focused on broadband internet issues in Central Virginia

Abigail SpanbergerRep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) and the Office of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam yesterday led a roundtable discussion with local officials, industry partners, area electric cooperatives, and the Broadband Association of Virginia to discuss the continued need for expanded access to high-speed broadband internet in Central Virginia.

Earlier this week, Spanberger cosponsored bipartisan legislation that would reduce the barriers that prevent Central Virginia Rural Utilities Service borrowers from refinancing their debt to take advantage of lower market rates.

During the roundtable discussion, Spanberger and Evan Feinman — chief broadband advisor for Northam — provided updates and discussed ongoing challenges to securing additional broadband infrastructure across Virginia’s Seventh District.

They were joined by leaders from Amelia County, Orange County, Nottoway County, Henrico County, Microsoft, VCTA-Broadband Association of Virginia, the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, and the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative.

“Instead of being the greater leveler, the COVID-19 crisis has consistently compounded structural inequities in communities across Virginia. The lack of reliable access to high-speed internet in rural communities is one of them,” said Spanberger. “During our discussion, we had the opportunity to learn more about the challenges Central Virginians are facing right now when it comes to internet connectivity — and we heard from the organizations in our community that are working to expand this critical infrastructure. I’d like to thank Mr. Feinman for joining this important conversation, and I look forward to continuing the fight in Congress to bring new opportunities to businesses, students, and families through strengthened access to broadband internet.”

“Just as Gov. Northam has made broadband a priority, getting over 108,000 Virginia homes and businesses connected, Congresswoman Spanberger has been a champion for disconnected Virginians, leading effort after effort in the Congress to get more Virginians online,” said Feinman. “I was thrilled to join her for a forum and help inform the citizens of the 7th district.”

A lack of reliable internet access has wide-ranging effects on businesses, healthcare systems, schools, and the rural economy. The COVID-19 pandemic has created additional challenges in Central Virginia and has forced healthcare providers to offer care via telehealth services — and school systems have built virtual learning systems as Seventh District students go back to school this fall.

Spanberger has worked to bring immediate solutions to students, parents, Main Street businesses, and schools struggling to access high-speed internet during the public health crisis. In April, Spanberger led 46 of her colleagues in calling for robust funding for the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) E-Rate program in upcoming coronavirus emergency packages.

Later that month, Spanberger also led a bipartisan group of 73 of her U.S. House colleagues in urging Congress to prioritize a historic investment in high-speed internet projects in any upcoming congressional infrastructure package.

In July, the U.S. House voted to pass infrastructure-focused legislation that includes Spanberger’s priorities to expand high-speed internet access across the country, as well as her amendment to ensure that new broadband networks are built to provide customers with sufficient upload and download speeds.

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