WASHINGTON—The US Department of the Treasury recently announced that Virginia is one of four states set to expand access to rural high-speed Internet service.
Under the American Rescue Plan’s Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund, Virginia has received $219.8 million, representing 100% of the state’s available CPF funding. The money will be used to expand broadband access to approximately 76,873 locations. About 28% of communities in Virginia lack access to high-quality broadband service, a reality that negatively impacts farmers and other rural residents.
Groups like the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation have long advocated for expanded statewide connectivity and are celebrating the recent announcement.
“It’s music to my ears,” VFBF President Wayne F. Pryor said. “Just as farms needed power and phone service a century ago, rural Virginia cannot fully thrive without high-speed internet. Anyone offline lacks connections to buyers, suppliers, news, educational resources and vital medical services. Rural Virginia will certainly benefit, and so will farmers.
Lynn Gayle, a member of the Accomack County Agricultural Bureau, is a row-crop farmer in rural Onancock, on Virginia’s east coast, where reliable internet connectivity for home use is difficult to obtain. and agricultural work. He had to invest in workarounds, installing wireless data connections in his tractors to transmit daily harvest data to John Deere’s central database.
“But many other devices and website designs require high data flow,” he said. “Without a broadband connection, data loads very slowly and it gets quite cumbersome.”
Broadband funding from the Treasury should help bridge that gap, but Gayle noted that the East Coast’s unique geography can present infrastructure challenges.
“In Virginia, local governments in partnership with Internet service providers can apply for funding through a competitive grant program overseen by the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative.
Other states receiving first-round funding include Louisiana, New Hampshire and West Virginia, connecting more than 200,000 homes and businesses to broadband. The first major waves of federal funding laid the groundwork for future funding under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.