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Rural summit highlights need for broadband access

Published: Oct. 21, 2020 at 8:26 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The seventh Governor’s Summit on Rural Prosperity was the first held online. The impact of COVID-19 was a common thread.

While there is some encouraging news on the jobs front, many small businesses continue to struggle. And during a time when thousands of students are learning online, many still lack access to high-speed internet.

“The Virginia State Council of Higher Education estimates that 200,000 K-12 students and 60,000 college students in Virginia lack access to broadband at home,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “Many of those students are in rural areas of our Commonwealth.”

Broadband was a priority before COVID-19, and the state has directed an additional $30 million in CARES Act funding to get as many people connected as quickly as possible.

State and federal leaders say we should begin to see major progress soon.

“We expect to see more happen in the next two years,” said 1st District Congressman Rob Wittman, “than in the last ten years.”

Northam has set a goal of universal broadband access in Virginia by 2028.

State officials say they believe they can meet that deadline, if the issue remains a priority.

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