Legislation creating a plan to expand affordable broadband access across the Commonwealth is on its way to Governor Glenn Youngkin’s office with broad bipartisan support.
HB 1265by Del. Suhas Subramanyam, D-Loudoun, instructs the state Department of Housing and Community Development to create a plan to provide recommendations to the General Assembly and Youngkin by December 1. Developing a map and plan to establish the areas of the state that most need broadband access is among the tasks the agency will have to complete before the end of the year.
“It’s a great way to both create a roadmap and position ourselves on the front lines for these federal programs, because without it, it’s going to be a lot harder to be in a good position to get that federal money,” “, Subramanyam told a House General Laws Committee meeting last month. “That’s why the bill is deliberately a little vague, a little broad in terms of exactly what the plan will encompass, because we want it to be responsive and flexible to respond to these federal grant programs.”
The plan, which was more popular in the Senate than the House — it passed the lower house with 89 votes over unanimous support in the Senate — would make Virginia a frontrunner to receive up to $600 million dollars of federal investment in infrastructure and jobs. Take action, supporters said.
Since the law seeks federal funding, the department will need to assess how to use existing grants. The bill also requires that the plan take into account public awareness strategies.
“While Virginia has been a leader in broadband deployment, making broadband affordable for everyone has been a major challenge,” Subramanyam said. “A comprehensive plan for broadband accessibility is long overdue, and this legislation will make broadband affordable for tens of thousands of Virginians in all parts of the Commonwealth.”
Lawmakers have already made strides to bring high-speed internet to Virginians. Last August, they agreed to spend $700 million in federal pandemic assistance to expand infrastructure.
Continuing to build broadband infrastructure and making it affordable are key parts of the Commonwealth’s plan to provide access to 50,000 Virginians without service, Ray LaMura, president of the Broadband Association of Virginia, said at the committee meeting. last month.
“When the federal dollars come in, you’ll have a vehicle on the doorstep of those who need it most,” he said.