Universal broadband access goal focus of Northam budget investment proposal

virginiaGov. Ralph Northam today announced his proposed budget will feature major investments in the Commonwealth’s support of broadband infrastructure, the first installment of a historic commitment to expanding access to all unserved Virginians.

“Broadband internet is inarguably a necessity for participation in a 21st century economy, and many Virginians have been left without quality access for far too long,” said Northam. “By ending this disconnect, we can better attract and support business and entrepreneurship, educate all Virginia students, expand access to cost-saving telehealth services, and more. We have an opportunity to accelerate our progress on expanding access to quality broadband internet—this budget reflects the priority my administration will place on reaching this important goal.”

The governor’s proposal would increase funding for the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI), a program that incentivizes internet service providers to expand their service to Virginians that are unserved, to $50 million in Fiscal Year 2020. The funding would be a significant increase to the $4 million already appropriated on an annual basis. This state funding will be matched by local, federal, and private funds, helping to connect tens of thousands more Virginians. Additional investments will support the technical expertise needed to assist local governments in developing detailed plans to connect all their citizens.

Northam envisions these commitments as the first installments of a multi-year investment totaling $250 million over the coming years, providing connection speeds significantly greater than 10 megabits (10,000,000 bits) per second. For comparison, standard dial-up speeds are 56 kilobits (56,000 bits) per second.

“This investment provides critical financial assistance to supplement construction costs for private broadband providers to extend their services to connect unserved Virginians,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “Creating strong, competitive communities in all regions of the state is critical to the Commonwealth’s vibrant economy, and the additional investments in VATI will prepare communities to build, utilize, and capitalize on telecommunications infrastructure.”

Northam will address the Joint Money Committees on December 18 to share the full details of his structurally balanced budget plan. The proposal features additional investments, as well as a plan to put Virginia on a path to committing 8 percent of its total budget in reserves by the end of the Northam administration.

Northam will unveil additional budget proposals next week. For more information on the schedule of events, click here.

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