Efforts underway at state and federal levels to bring faster internet to Virginia and North Carolina

Router Internet
Posted at 10:04 AM, Jun 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-02 10:17:28-04

The COVID-19 pandemic taught us a lot, and maybe one of the biggest lessons was the importance of fast, reliable internet. At least, state and congressional politicians think so.

For telehealth visits and virtual learning — both of which became more prominent the last two years — a strong broadband connection is often a requirement.

In 2021, former Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam's administration said more than 223,000 homes and businesses in the Commonwealth lacked access to affordable, high-speed internet.

In a recent interview with News 3's sister station in Richmond, CBS 6, current Gov. Glenn Youngkin said the number is actually higher.

"These addresses can be homes, they can be apartment complexes and they can be buildings," the governor said.

The state government's Commonwealth Connection website shows gaps in access are much more prevalent in rural areas, including those in Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore.

Youngkin, a Republican, says he plans to work with U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) to expand 100/20 internet access to all in Virginia.

The current FCC standard benchmark for broadband internet is 25 megabits per second (Mbps) downloading speed and 3 megabits per second uploading speed. However, proponents of faster internet say 25/3 isn't enough in an age where people are learning and working at home more often.

"The reality is it needs to be 100/20 and that's what we need to be able to deliver all over Virginia," said Youngkin, who adds his goal is to get everyone connected by 2024.

Across the state line in North Carolina, the state's Broadband Availability Index shows more than 95 percent with 25/3 broadband access. Similar to Virginia, areas less likely to have coverage are more rural communities, including counties in the state's northeastern portion.

A plan posted online by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper's administration points says $1 billion in American Rescue Plan funds spent through 2026 will go to expanding access to 100/20 internet.

"If you don't know how to do it. If you can't afford to access it, if you don't have a device and can't afford one, then you can't be connected," said Cooper (D) last month at an event with U.S. Sec. of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

Raimondo joined Cooper in Durham to unveil the "Internet for All" initiative. The effort dedicates $45 billion to provide all Americans with fast, reliable internet by the end of the decade.