WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) was joined by the White House American Rescue Plan Coordinator Gene Sperling in announcing $219.8 million in broadband funding for Virginia, which comes from the $10 billion Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund authored by Sen. Warner and included in the American Rescue Plan.
As part of the announcement, Sen. Warner and Sperling were joined by NOVA President Anne M. Kress, PhD and NOVA Medical Education Provost Shelly L.S. Powers, DMSc, MA, PA-C in a demonstration of a hybrid Radiation Oncology course, during which they got a first-hand look at the invaluable role of broadband in expanding access to opportunity through quality higher education. The course also serves students in Roanoke, as it is taught by faculty from Virginia Western Community College (VWCC) and Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) through specialized instructional equipment only available at NOVA’s Medical Education Campus.
“In Virginia, broadband is absolutely critical to the economic prosperity, education, and health of every family. Today we saw a partnership between two institutions on either side of the Commonwealth who are able to reach more students and expand access to high-quality higher education thanks to the power of high-speed internet,” said Sen. Warner. “I was proud to negotiate this historic investment as part of last year’s emergency COVID-19 relief bill, and am thrilled to know that Virginia is among the first four states to receive its slice of the pie. I look forward to seeing Virginia achieve universal broadband coverage in the very near future.”
“There were a lot of people involved in the American Rescue Plan negotiations, folks like Senators Manchin, King, Hassan, Tester, Sinema, Hickenlooper, and many others, and of course, a lot of people at the White House were involved. But if you lined them all up and asked who was the leader and who was responsible for this $10 billion for broadband and connectivity, the verdict would be unanimous: we would not be here giving $220 million to Virginia if it wasn’t for Senator Mark Warner," said White House American Rescue Plan Coordinator Gene Sperling at the event today.
“Expanding access to healthcare education programs will help our region address critical nursing and staffing shortages, especially in rural communities,” said NOVA President Anne M. Kress, PhD. “As the only Virginia community college with a dedicated medical education campus, NOVA is proud to share its knowledge and state-of-the art equipment with peer institutions and their students across the Commonwealth. With expanded access to affordable and reliable broadband, more students will have the opportunity to choose and succeed in rewarding career pathways like healthcare, earning degrees and certificates that advance their families and our communities.”
“The pandemic exposed longstanding challenges that workers and families face when they don’t have adequate access to the internet, especially those living in rural areas and other unconnected communities. That is why these broadband investments are so urgently needed across the cuntry,” said Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo. “This funding through the American Rescue Plan will help connect thousands of communities in Virginia with affordable, high-speed broadband service. Treasury commends Virginia for targeting this funding to places where it is most urgently needed across the state.”
Virginia’s $219.8 million represents 100 percent of its available CPF funding and will expand last-mile broadband access to an estimated 76,873 locations. Through a competitive grant-making program overseen by the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI), local governments in partnership with internet service providers will apply for funds with the goal of deploying universal coverage solutions in the localities involved.
As approved by the Department of Treasury, VATI’s plan is designed, upon project completion, to deliver reliable internet service that meets or exceeds symmetrical download and upload speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps), speeds that are needed for a household with multiple users to simultaneously access the internet to telework and access education and health monitoring. In accordance with Treasury’s guidance, each state’s plan requires all service providers to participate in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) new Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The ACP helps ensure that households can afford the broadband they need for work, school, healthcare, and more by providing a discount of up to $30 per month. The FCC estimates that about 48 million families are eligible for the program—nearly 40 percent of households.
The CPF provides $10 billion to states, territories, freely associated states, and Tribal governments to fund critical capital projects that enable work, education, and health monitoring in response to the public health emergency. A key priority of the program is to make funding available for reliable, affordable broadband infrastructure and other digital connectivity technology projects.
As Senator, and during his tenure as the 69th Governor of Virginia, Sen. Warner has been a staunch advocate for expanded access to broadband. With more Virginia families forced to rely on the internet for telework and telehealth as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, Sen. Warner secured $65 billion in funding within the bipartisan infrastructure law to help deploy broadband, increase access, and decrease costs associated with connecting to the internet.