Access to Broadband
Here’s the Problem
Currently, more than 350,000 Virginia homes and businesses and 600,000 Virginians – mostly in Southwest, Southside, and Tidewater regions – still don’t have broadband access, while many Virginians who do have access struggle to afford it. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed even more Virginians to the realities of living without dependable access to the internet.
As a girl growing up in Petersburg, we couldn’t bring home books and materials for our school work, and this simply cut us off from opportunity. That’s exactly what this boils down to — a lack of access to the internet is a lack of access to opportunity. It’s being held back by no fault of your own. Access to the internet today means access to healthcare, better jobs, education, and so much more.
My Plans as Governor
As Governor, my pledge is to ensure 97 percent of Virginians will have access to high speed internet by the end of my administration. Here’s how I’ll do it:
- Target and streamline funding for broadband deployment in underserved communities though the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative
- Repeal roadblocks preventing municipal broadband authorities from reaching new regions
- Prioritize and recruit local broadband providers and ensure large cable corporations don’t have an unfair leg up
- Launch a pilot program to subsidize high speed internet access for Virginians eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits
- Improve broadband data maps which help the Commonwealth better target investments to communities and areas that need it
- Expand and fast track the completion of broadband infrastructure projects
- Partner with school districts to tackle the homework gap to make sure children can access their education — at home and at school
- Cover remote medical services for rural and underserved Virginians, expanding telehealth as outlined in my healthcare policy plan
My Record & Experience
I fought to expand broadband access to underserved communities, especially in rural and Southwest Virginia, because high speed internet is no longer a luxury for working families, it’s a necessity.
Now, my plan aims to expand broadband so that Virginians can work from home, students can participate in virtual learning, patients can access telehealth, and small businesses can survive, grow, and thrive.
As a Delegate, I:
- Passed legislation to allow existing utility easements to be used for broadband deployment, creating a robust pathway for the expansion of high speed internet access to rural and Southwest Virginians.
- Supported legislation to strengthen public-private partnerships by allowing electric utilities to partner with nongovernmental internet service providers to provide broadband to unserved communities and areas.
- During the Special Session, published an op-ed in The Roanoke Times calling attention to the lobbying done by cable companies to prevent municipal broadband authorities from competing for state grant funding.
- Submitted a letter to Gov. Ralph Northam urging him to ensure the equitable distribution of technology and resources to support distance learning.
- Supported a near $85 million budget allocation to the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative to expand broadband infrastructure.