Virginia investing $700M to expand broadband to everyone in state by 2024

The funding is meant to accelerate the state's plan to close the digital divide.

Abrar Al-Heeti Technology Reporter
Abrar Al-Heeti is a technology reporter for CNET, with an interest in phones, streaming, internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. She's also worked for CNET's video, culture and news teams. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
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Virginia is working to provide broadband access for all homes in the state by 2024.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Friday that the state plans to direct $700 million of American Rescue Plan funding toward helping bring broadband to underserved areas within the next three years. The move is meant to expedite Northam's 10-year plan to provide internet access for everyone in the state, pushing forward the goal year from 2028 to 2024. 

Northam also said Virginia has "successfully bridged half of the digital divide, with an estimated 233,500 unserved locations remaining," according to a release. 

"It's time to close the digital divide in our Commonwealth and treat internet service like the 21st century necessity that it is -- not just a luxury for some, but an essential utility for all," Northam said in a statement. "The pandemic has reinforced how important high-quality broadband is for the health, education, and economic opportunity, and we cannot afford to leave any community behind."

The federal American Rescue Plan, a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, aims to offer relief for American workers and to help with economic recovery, which includes the dissemination of stimulus payments. Pandemic lockdowns also highlighted how critical closing the digital divide is, as Americans became more reliant on high-speed internet access to complete essential tasks while stuck at home.

Since 2018, Virginia says, it's awarded around $124 million in broadband grants and connected more than 140,000 homes, businesses and community centers. It says it's on track to be one of the first states in the US to achieve universal broadband service.