Winsome Sears, Virginia’s lieutenant governor-elect, expressed the importance of rural broadband access and her concerns over how funds allocated for broadband access in the newly signed infrastructure law would help Virginians, especially in the southwestern part of the state.
“Well, it depends on what else comes with it. … Do we know what’s really in it and do we have to pass it before we can know what’s in it?,” Sears told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” when asked if the infrastructure package is good for Virginians. “Now broadband is very important to me, because our southwestern Virginia has been suffering from not having that.”
Sears, a Republican who will break barriers as the first woman and the first woman of color in the office in the commonwealth, said she does not believe funding for broadband internet would benefit southwestern Virginia, saying, “We’re using the budget, the money to try to make things happen that are not happening and it’s not right.”
Sears’ comments come days after the President Joe Biden signed the massive infrastructure law to help close the “digital divide” and provide a $65 billion investment in improving the nation’s broadband infrastructure in which each state will receive at least $100 million. States will disburse the funds over the next five years through grants to local communities with a plan to expand internet access to homes and businesses.
Internet service providers will be required to offer at least one affordable plan and to be transparent about pricing by adopting a “broadband consumer label,” which was previously proposed by the Federal Communications Commission and could resemble the nutrition facts label found on food products.
Virginia has already made strides to expand broadband access in the state and Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, announced over the summer plans to invest $700 million in American Rescue Plan Act to fast-track his goal to achieve universal internet access from by 2024.
But many rural counties in Virginia lag behind other parts of commonwealth in the number of households with broadband subscription, according to data from the Virginia Department of Health.
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