Rural communities to receive broadband grants

(The Center Square) – Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced funding to provide 20 predominantly rural, underserved communities with broadband access.

More than $59.5 million in grants will be made through the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative, supplying broadband access to nearly 30,000 homes, businesses and community institutions, such as schools, libraries, public safety centers and health care providers.

The funding will center around 14 projects throughout 20 localities in the commonwealth, which are considered underserved by broadband providers.

Leaders in the commonwealth stress the need to ensure broadband access is readily available to help businesses, individuals and communities to thrive in a digitally reliant economy.

“Closing the digital divide is paramount to growing Virginia’s economy, supporting businesses and ensuring that all Virginians have the resources they need to thrive,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Care Merrick.

Youngkin echoed Merrick’s message, underscoring the grants as community investments. By closing digital gaps, high-speed broadband access will provide more opportunities for Virginians to excel in business and education.

“In today’s increasingly digital world, having access to high-speed broadband is no longer a luxury, it is necessary in order to fully participate in daily life,” said Youngkin. “These investments will allow us to reach underserved communities, grow Virginia’s economy and close the digital divide across the commonwealth.”

The Virginia Telecommunications Initiative has leveraged more than $118.6 million in local and private sector matching funds this year. The initiative aims to build stronger, more competitive communities through developing and strengthening telecommunications infrastructure.

Essex County will be awarded more than $8.7 million. Caroline County will receive over $8.4 million spread between two grants to address broadband challenges east and west of the Interstate 95 divide, and Shenandoah County will receive nearly $5 million.

Greensville and Orange counties will each receive over $2 million in grants, while Bedford and Floyd counties will individually receive more than $1.3 million. The Southside Planning District Commission will receive over $8.5 million, and the West Piedmont Planning District Commission will receive over $8.5 million, and an additional $8 million with a letter of intent.

The program is administered through the Department of Housing and Community Development, which offers financial assistance to expand broadband to underserved communities in the commonwealth.

Funding is awarded through a competitive process, which evaluates projects based on demonstrated community needs and benefits, among other stipulations.

The initiative received requests to fund over $300 million in projects between 35 submitted applications. The commonwealth has invested nearly $800 million since 2017 to connect over 358,000 homes, businesses and community-vital institutions to broadband access.

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