Broadband Access

Governor Northam Announces Virginia to Invest $700 Million in American Rescue Plan Funding to Achieve Universal Broadband by 2024

Proposal will allow the Commonwealth to connect remaining unserved locations, accelerate 10-year plan to close the digital divide

ABINGDON—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia plans to invest $700 million in American Rescue Plan funding to expedite the deployment of last-mile broadband infrastructure to unserved areas and close the digital divide within the next three years. This proposal will accelerate the Governor’s 10-year goal for achieving universal internet access from 2028 to 2024, with the majority of connections obligated within the next 18 months. In May, Governor Northam and General Assembly leaders released a joint statement outlining shared priorities for allocating the $4.3 billion in federal funds available to the Commonwealth from the American Rescue Plan.

The Governor made the announcement at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon and was joined by U.S. Senator Mark Warner, State Senator Janet Howell and Delegate Luke Torian, who chair the General Assembly’s money committees, and State Senator Jennifer Boysko and Delegate Roslyn Tyler, who lead Virginia’s Broadband Advisory Council. Governor Northam also reported that the Commonwealth has successfully bridged half of the digital divide, with an estimated 233,500 unserved locations remaining.

“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,” said Governor Northam. “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. With this historic $700 million investment, universal broadband is now within our reach. I am grateful to Senator Warner for fighting to include this funding in the American Rescue Plan, which will be key to the success of local connectivity efforts and to ensuring every Virginian has affordable, reliable, and equitable access to high-speed internet.”

Since 2018, the Commonwealth has awarded approximately $124 million in broadband grants and connected over 140,000 homes, businesses, and community anchors. Governor Northam and the General Assembly made historic investments—$50 million in 2020 and an additional $50 million in 2021—in the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI), a public-private partnership that provides targeted financial assistance to extend broadband service to areas currently unserved by a provider. With this $700 million allocation of federal dollars and continued state investment, the Commonwealth has the necessary resources to meet the tremendous demand from localities and broadband providers and close the digital divide in Virginia.

“With telehealth and telework becoming permanent staples across the nation, access to broadband is more critical than ever,” said U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner. “Earlier this year, I was proud to help deliver more than $3.7 billion dollars in direct fiscal relief for the Commonwealth through the American Rescue Plan, including hundreds of millions of dollars for broadband. I’m hopeful that my friends in the General Assembly will use $700 million of that funding to expand access to broadband, thereby creating economic opportunity and ensuring that every Virginian can meaningfully participate in our 21st century economy.”

“Localities and broadband providers have stepped up over the past three years and helped the Commonwealth connect thousands of unserved Virginians,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “With today’s announcement, large regional projects that achieve universal service can be funded across the Commonwealth without delay.”

Because Governor Northam prioritized broadband expansion well before the pandemic, Virginia is on track to be one of the first states in the country to achieve universal broadband service. In 2019, the Governor worked with the General Assembly to establish a pilot program that promotes collaboration between localities, electric utilities, and internet service providers to connect unserved areas to high-speed internet. In just two years of the pilot program, Virginia’s utility companies have helped connect more than 13,000 homes and businesses across the Commonwealth. Earlier this year, Governor Northam signed bipartisan legislation that makes the pilot program permanent.

“The Commonwealth continues to prioritize funding for universal broadband access and I’m encouraged to see these investments coming ahead of schedule,” said Senator Janet Howell, Chair of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee. “This appropriation of federal dollars will go a long way towards supporting the investments that the Commonwealth has already made to bridge the digital divide.”

“Funding for broadband is more critical now than ever,” said Delegate Luke Torian, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee. “We must continue to ensure that all citizens of the Commonwealth have access to quality internet access.”

“The Broadband Advisory Council has long prioritized funding to reduce the cost of broadband access and connect unserved Virginians,” said Senator Jennifer Boysko, Chair of the Broadband Advisory Council. “With this investment of American Rescue Plan dollars, we will greatly accelerate our progress.” 

“I have lived in a rural area my entire life and I know that the Commonwealth benefits as a whole when we lift up all communities,” said Delegate Roslyn Tyler, Vice Chair of the Broadband Advisory Council. “This investment will have a tremendous impact on countless Virginians and allow our communities to prosper and grow.”

Video of today’s announcement is available on Governor Northam’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Does Southern VA Need More Coworking and Makerspace?

Online Survey Will Determine Direction of Major Innovation Strategy for Region

Attention all small business owners, freelancers, entrepreneurs, remote workers, craftspeople, and creatives. Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC), in partnership with Longwood University, is calling for community input on proposed innovative office space in Southern Virginia.

The study is designed to gauge whether or not there is a need for additional coworking and makerspaces, the spaces’ desired offerings, and also the amount people would be willing to pay as a member or occasional user of such a space.

Coworking spaces are generally for those seeking office-type space for continuous or occasional use. Coworking spaces can offer a sense of community among solo workers and amenities such as high speed internet, video conferencing capabilities, printing/scanning/copying, meeting space, etc.

Makerspaces can provide access to design software and shared production equipment, such as 3-D printers, laser cutters, drill presses, sewing machines, commercial kitchen equipment, food storage, etc.

“The survey results will guide the planning process for designing high-tech, coworking spaces that provide the tools for success for all types of entrepreneurs in Southern Virginia,” said Lauren Mathena, Director of Economic Development and Community Engagement at MBC.

This region-wide study of market demand for coworking and makerspaces is being conducted by The Institute for Service Research, a full service market research and economic modeling firm with extensive experience in Southern Virginia. The study is part of a larger innovation and entrepreneurship strategy being developed by MBC and Longwood University supported by funding by GO Virginia Region 3.

Those who take the survey have the option to remain anonymous or to be entered to win a $50 Visa gift card.

The survey is available exclusively online at www.investsova.com/survey. MBC and Longwood are urging people who plan to relocate or who currently work or live in the Southern Virginia Tobacco Region to complete the survey. The region includes three cities (Danville, Emporia, Martinsville) and twenty counties (Amelia, Appomattox, Bedford, Brunswick, Buckingham, Campbell, Charlotte, Cumberland, Dinwiddie, Franklin, Greensville, Halifax, Henry, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Patrick, Pittsylvania, Prince Edward, Sussex).

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Virginia Lawmakers Break For Brunswick Stew

People line up for Brunswick stew

Legislative pages transport stew

By Conor Lobb, Capital News Service

RICHMOND -- The aroma of meat and vegetables beckoned state legislators Wednesday to a tent at the foot of the Capitol for Brunswick Stew Day.

Scores of legislative pages -- young aides who assist lawmakers -- wheeled carts laden with styrofoam containers of stew back toward the State Capitol for legislators who couldn’t get away.

“There’s no cooking supper when you come home with Brunswick stew,” said Del. Thomas C. Wright, R-Victoria. Wright was the legislative “chef” responsible for the official resolution designating the fourth Wednesday in January as Brunswick Stew Day. 

“The legislators love it. At first, they didn’t even know what Brunswick stew was,” Wright said. 

Brunswick stew is a mixture of beans, chicken, corn and other vegetables. In 1988 the Virginia General Assembly named Brunswick County the “birthplace” of Brunswick stew -- though the designation hasn’t gone unchallenged by Brunswick, Georgia. 

For 18 years, stew masters have brought their award-winning recipes to the Capitol. This year, the honor belongs to the Danieltown Stew Crew. The group won the 2019 World Champion Brunswick Stew Cook-off, held last fall at the Lawrenceville-Brunswick Municipal Airport.

Inside the steamy, white tent where the stew cooked, a three-man team stirred the stew pots, weighing 50 and 75 gallons, respectively. Clark Bennett, the Danieltown Stew Master, told Capitol News Service that his 75-gallon pot is over 100 years old.

“Some people call them cauldrons,” Bennett said.

Bennett was using two massive cast iron cauldrons to brew his version of the Brunswick tradition. The stew crew used a wooden paddle to constantly stir the hearty mixture.

“I do a figure eight. You don’t want it sticking to the pot,” said Kyle Gee, a member of the stew crew.

Virginia Secretary of Agriculture Bettina Ring said that Brunswick Stew Day is a great tradition in Brunswick County and rustic parts of the state. She also called it an opportunity to educate legislators about rural communities.

Brunswick County Administrator Charlette Woolridge said Brunswick Stew Day helps promote the county and reach legislators.

“It’s important that they understand issues that impact Brunswick County and rural communities,” Woolridge said, highlighting the importance of increasing rural broadband and stimulating economic development.

Del. Roslyn C. Tyler, D-Jarratt, represents Brunswick. She said broadband is imperative “to promote economic development and attract businesses.” 

Two duplicate bills were introduced this legislative session, one in the House and one in the Senate, that would grant a locality the authority to establish telecommunication services such as internet and broadband.

Sen. L. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, asked for her bill to be removed and the other bill, introduced by Del. Steve Heretick, D-Portsmouth, failed to pass a subcommittee Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the bowls of steaming stew had no problem being passed around.

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GO Virginia Region 3 announces successful project award to develop a Regional Entrepreneur & Innovation Investment Strategy

Project will result in strategic path forward to help entrepreneurs in Region 3

 

The team of Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC) and the Longwood University Office of Community and Economic Development (LOCED) have been awarded a $100,000 grant from GO Virginia to develop the Region 3 Entrepreneur & Innovation Investment Strategy (EII).   By Spring 2020 this team will present a formal recommendation to the Region 3 Council on ways it can support and utilize its resources to invest in projects that improve business formation in the Region.

 

As early as July 2017, the Region 3 Council identified a number of innovation partners in its footprint and utilized these partners as part of its stakeholder group for input into the original Growth & Diversification Plan that was completed in 2017.  In 2018 and in concert with the State GO Virginia Board and its technology consulting firm TEConomy, the Council created a standing Innovation Committee to lead stakeholder sessions on the TEConomy report, which resulted in an assessment of the status of innovation and business formation in the Region 3 footprint.

 

MBC and LOCED bring exceptional strengths to lead this effort. Each organization includes individuals with direct entrepreneurial experience.  From Mid-Atlantic Broadband, this experience includes its deep connectivity with Microsoft and the Microsoft TechSpark Program and its staff engagement with innovation and entrepreneurship organizations outside the Region 3 footprint including Startup VA, Lighthouse Labs and RVA Works.  For the Longwood Office of Economic and Community Development, its experience includes its leadership across the Region in supporting Community Business Launches, its deep and recognized business planning expertise through its Small Business Development Center, and its existing geographic coverage of the entire Region 3 footprint with staffing and programs.  These two entities also bring a level of technical skills that are unique, including business research, mapping capabilities, and demonstrated use of electronic communication platforms to engage broad stakeholder audiences.

 

"It is exciting to see the breadth and depth of regional collaboration from these two experienced partners,” Region 3 GO Virginia Council Chairman Randy Lail said. "We are even more pleased that the State GO Virginia Board concurred with our recommendation to use the knowledge gained from the TEConomy report and advance it into a thoughtful strategy. We know that the lead partners will be engaging as many stakeholders as possible and will create a viable strategy for business formation that will also help us with talent retention and attraction, two areas of focus for our Regional Council."

 

The MBC/LOCED team brings strong skillsets in project management, stakeholder engagement, event planning, research, business analysis, and entrepreneurial program management.  Specifically, LOCED skillsets include a track record of successfully supporting Community Business Launches, analyzing business formation plans and scale-up plans, connecting entrepreneurs to diverse resources, and offering training and mentoring as part of its core competencies.  Four of its team members are active entrepreneurs, bringing practical experience into this project. MBC’s team also includes individual entrepreneurs as well as a founding member of the Danville/Pittsylvania IDEA Fest pitch competition. MBC is also directly connected to a significant corporate partner, Microsoft, through its TechSpark program and through the SOVA Innovation Hub.

"The Regional Council has high hopes that this project team will involve as many of our regional innovation partners as possible in developing this strategy," said Region 3 Vice-Chairman Charley Majors. "Creative thinking, and building impactful partnerships is the way that rural Virginia can successfully create sustainable economies, and this is an example of rural leadership in action." 

"We are excited to be partnering with the Longwood team," said Lauren Mathena, Project Manager for the EII Project.  "And we are eager to use our resources to complement the knowledge that MBC brings to this effort,” said Sheri McGuire, Associate Vice-President for Longwood’s Office of Community & Economic Development.  She continued “We believe that the deep resources of Region 3, and the partners who will help us with this planning effort, will result in a well-designed strategy for this Council to use.”

About GO Virginia: GO Virginia is a statewide business-led economic development initiative with funding to invest in collaborative projects that lead to high-paying jobs in each region. The mission of GO Virginia is to encourage collaboration among business, education, and government in each region. GO Virginia Region 3 is one of nine regions in Virginia and includes the Counties of Amelia, Brunswick, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Halifax, Henry, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Patrick, Pittsylvania and Prince Edward and the Cities of Danville and Martinsville. For more information, please visit govirginia3.org and sign up for the Region 3 monthly newsletter or connect with GO Virginia Region 3 on Facebook or LinkedIn.

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Own a Business or Live in Brunswick County? Take the Broadband Survey

Dear Editor,

Greetings from the Brunswick County Board of Supervisors!

The Board of Supervisors adopted its Vision for 2035 in February 2017 to provide a guide, or road map if you will, for our County. Among those priorities in the Vision for 2035 included the following:

Premier Location for Economic Growth and Development

In response to this goal the Board of Supervisors voted to partner with the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) - at no cost to the County — to conduct a comprehensive Broadband Needs Assessment Survey for the County to:

  • Identify gaps in broadband service,
  • Identify key vertical assets that could address the un-»“under-served areas,
  • Provide funding options for new infrastructure,
  • Define strategies for partnering with incumbent providers, and
  • Document methods for addressing broadband awareness and adoption to improve utilization for all citizens.

As you may be aware, better broadband access can enhance the quality of life for many through increased access to health services, improved communication with friends and family, and faster home entertainment streaming, as well as opportunities for working, shopping, and education from home.

I am certain that by now everyone has either seen in our local newspaper or on social media a request to go online to complete the Brunswick County Broadband Needs Assessment Survey. If you have filled out the survey we GREATLY appreciate your participation. The deadline to respond to this survey has been extended to Monday, April 30, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. The deadline to participate has been extended to permit more households and businesses an opportunity to be heard — as we stand today we are at an average of 9 % participation whereas we need to be in the 12 to 15 percent participation level to attract and be competitive with various broadband providers. The higher level of participation clearly signals that our citizens are serious about their interest in as well as showing concern for our education systems (public/private/higher ed/job retraining) and dire interest in attracting Economic Development opportunities to the County! Again, we need EVERY HOUSEHOLD OR BUSINESS to either complete a paper copy that is located at the public library, the County Government Building — Administration or Planning Offices or the Chamber of Commerce. You may still go online and complete the Broadband Needs Assesment Survey.

We look forward to your responses to the County’s Broadband Needs Assessment Survey.

Sincerely,

Barbara Jarrett Harris

Chair Brunswick County Board of Supervisors

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