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Gov. Ralph Northam speaks during a 2019 visit to Greensville Co.

RICHMOND – Governor Ralph Northam announced Wednesday that Virginia is allocating $30 million in CARES Act funding to improve broadband internet access in underserved localities across the state.

Greensville County is no stranger to the issue of broadband access. When Greensville County Public Schools made the decision to have the first nine weeks of the 2020-2021 school year be fully virtual, the lack of reliable broadband access was at the forefront of the minds of parents and staff alike. GCPS superintendent Kim Evans said it was the most pressing issue facing teachers and families in the area.

An estimated 200,000 K-12 students and 60,000 college students in Virginia lack access to broadband at home, according to the State Council of Higher Education. With many school systems and universities holding virtual instruction this fall, reliable access to Internet has been a focus of Northam’s administration and other legislators in Richmond.

“Broadband access is a matter of equity, as the pandemic and the rise in virtual meetings and classes demonstrate,” said Delegate Roslyn Tyler, vice chairwoman of the Broadband Advisory Council. “Getting broadband access to rural and urban Virginia helps to ensure that everyone in Virginia moving forward together.”

Tyler, who represents Greensville County and the City of Emporia, said broadband expansion in the area has been one of her priorities even before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CARES Act funding allocated for this initiative is separate from other current broadband funding projects like the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI).

Localities must apply for the CARES Act funding, and eligible projects are those able to be completed within the time constraints on spending federal money. This ultimately means more underserved Virginians could be connected to high-speed, broadband Internet by the end of 2020.