“Access to high speed internet is critical for success in the 21st century economy, but rural communities continue to be left behind. This means less access to telemedicine, educational tools, and business opportunities. When students can’t do their homework because they lack access to broadband, something has to be done,” the Senators said. “We believe this Democratic proposal to invest in the broadband infrastructure necessary to connect rural communities to high-speed internet is crucial for economic growth, and it would empower Virginians with the tools to improve their livelihoods. We must make broadband a priority as we begin discussions on infrastructure and the budget.”
The proposal would connect communities that have been left behind by big internet service providers. The plan focuses on investing $40 billion in federal funding using four principles:
1. Provide federal support for a universal grant program to bring high-speed internet to areas in need of quality, affordable service.
2. Create accurate maps of areas that lack adequate internet access in order to determine how to best allocate resources and make improvements.
3. Empower rural communities by giving them access to high-speed internet so they can compete economically with other cities and ensure they have the tools to compete.
4. Provide grants to states and localities to upgrade their critical safety infrastructure, including modernizing aging 9-1-1 systems.
Warner and Kaine have both long pushed to expand broadband access in Virginia. In February, Warner & Kaine joined a bipartisan group of colleagues to urge President Trump to include broadband in any infrastructure initiative.
As Governor, Warner worked with federal, state, local and private-sector partners to leverage Virginia’s tobacco settlement dollars to invest in building out over 800 miles of fiber-optic broadband in Southwest and Southside, which helped to attract 2,200 jobs and $300 million of investment. In the Senate, he successfully amended the Farm Bill to provide new tools to extend high-speed Internet service to rural America, and he has pressed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to enact policies that encourage expanded wireless broadband deployment in underserved and unserved areas of the country, increase quality and service, and improve cost competition in rural and urban areas alike.
As Governor, Kaine created the Office of Telework Promotion and Broadband Assistance, which expands broadband access and work opportunities on broadband projects in rural areas, thereby helping increase economic activity. Governor Kaine also signed legislation establishing the Broadband Advisory Council, which recommends policy and funding priorities to expand broadband access in the Commonwealth. As a Senator, Kaine has advocated for federal investments from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help expand broadband access in Southwest Virginia.