RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A plan to have the entire state of Virginia outfitted for broadband internet access is being accelerated thanks to a recent announcement by Gov. Ralph Northam.

The governor on Friday said the state plans to use $700 million of the $4.3 billion in federal funds available to the commonwealth through the American Rescue Plan Act to expedite the deployment of last-mile broadband infrastructure to unserved areas.

The allocation of funds will accelerate the goal of achieving universal internet access across the state from 2028 to 2024, with the majority of connections obligated within the next 18 months.

Gov. Northam also reported that Virginia has bridged half of the state’s 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,” Gov. Northam said Friday at an event at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon. The governor was also joined at the announcement by U.S. Senator Mark Warner, State Senators Janet Howell and Jennifer Boysko, Delegates Luke Torian and Roslyn Tyler.

Approximately $124 million in broadband grants have been awarded to the state since 2018, and over 140,000 homes, businesses and community anchors have been connected. The state says this $700 million investment will provide the necessary resources to meet the tremendous demand from localities and broadband providers and close the digital divide in Virginia.