Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced a proposal to spend $50 million on building universal broadband internet service in his upcoming budget, aimed at improving internet access across the Commonwealth.
State Scoop reported that The Virginia Telecommunications Initiative, or VATI, is a grant program funded by the state Department of Housing and Community Development to give incentives to internet service providers to expand coverage into underserved areas, which the state defines as locations with average download speeds of less than 10 megabits per second.
Currently, VATI receives $4 million annually from the state, but under Northam’s new proposal, that number would reach $50 million in 2020.
The increased $50 million fund would be the first installment in a plan to cover the entire state within 10 years, though organizers are hoping coverage will happen sooner.
According to Evan Feinman, who is leading the initiative, the increase for the state’s 2020 budget will connect tens of thousands more Virginians and potentially more than 100,000 residents who currently do not have access to broadband internet.
“[Northam’s] very clear that he wants to see it happen faster, which is why he pushed forward such an aggressive plan,” Feinman said. “It’s very difficult to tell someone who’s driving their children to McDonald’s to do their homework in the evenings that we’ll get to you in ten years.”
A full report on how the state plans to finance and achieve 100 percent high-speed connectivity is expected to be released in early January. In the meantime, Northam presented the full budget to the state legislature on December 18, reported State Scoop. Comments? Email Us.
December 20, 2018