Nearly six months into the coronavirus pandemic, many children are getting an education at home or doing their homework in a school parking lot where there is an internet connection. Adults are working at their computers from their kitchen tables or outside of a library.
Virginia is working on getting people internet access, but that plan doesn’t include affordability
About 600,000 Virginians, mostly in Southwest, Southside and the Tidewater areas, lack access to broadband. Even where some theoretically have access to it, they can’t afford it. And Virginia doesn’t currently have a plan to address affordability.
“The affordability problem remains out there, and it’s significant,” Evan Feinman, the governor’s chief broadband adviser, told the Virginia Broadband Advisory Council last week. “It is something we’re going to need to address if we’re going to truly claim to have addressed the digital divide.”
Virginia has mainly focused on laying the infrastructure necessary to connect homes and businesses to broadband. The Virginia Telecommunications Initiative is one of the primary mechanisms the commonwealth uses to reach areas where there is no broadband.
The state created the program in 2016 to provide grants for last-mile broadband infrastructure, which is the part of the network that connects individual homes and businesses to the broader network. The program requires funded projects to be public-private partnerships, with a local government partnering with a private sector internet service provider to bring service to that community.
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