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Digital Divide

Virginia's broadband director on using BEAD funding to close the digital divide

NASHVILLE – Fiber Connect 2022 – Virginia has been investing in broadband "since before it was cool," said Dr. Tamarah Holmes, the state's director of the office of broadband at the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.

We caught up with Dr. Holmes at the Fiber Connect conference in Nashville, Tennessee, to hear more about the progress Virginia has made toward closing the digital divide, what role its broadband office is playing in administering grants and providing community support and how the state envisions using forthcoming federal funds to close its remaining access and affordability gaps.

Notably, she said, Virginia has "scaled up our funding significantly" since it began funding broadband in 2017. What started as a $1 million investment for last-mile deployment has now ramped up to over $700 million for broadband expansion this year.

While Virginia has made significant progress toward closing its digital divide, Dr. Holmes said the number of "unserved" locations grew this year when the state changed its definition of served to 100/20 Mbit/s, up from 25/3 Mbit/s.

"Before the definition change, we were looking at ... 85,000 locations would still lack access," she said. "When we changed our definition, we're looking at a little over 200,000."

Here are just a few topics discussed in this video:

  • Background on state funding for broadband (0:50)
  • Size of the digital divide in Virginia (03:30)
  • How BEAD funding will help the state expand its efforts to close the digital divide (05:07)
  • How years of investment and provider partnerships have lowered the cost of broadband in Virginia (06:14)
  • The state's "tech-agnostic" approach to broadband (09:20)
  • Virginia's involvement in the FCC broadband mapping process (14:00)

Related stories and links:

— Phil Harvey, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading; and Nicole Ferraro, Site Editor, Broadband World News

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