Virginia has been chosen as one of the first states to receive funding as part of a $10 billion capital project fund for broadband access in a massive federal effort to bring affordable, high-speed internet to all American homes and businesses.

The funding is a part of Congress’ 2021 COVID-19 relief bill, the American Rescue Plan, and is one of several new initiatives to try to make high-speed internet attainable for all Americans. As reported by The Virginia Mercury, Nearly 20 percent of rural Americans do not have access to 25/3 Mbps or faster broadband service, according to the 2021 report on access from the Federal Communications Commission.

Senator Mark Warner , who pushed for the broadband plan in the Senate, said in a call with reporters on Monday to announce the awards: “COVID drove home the point that broadband is not a ‘nice to have,’ it is an economic necessity.”

“In Virginia, broadband is absolutely critical to the economic prosperity, education, and health of every family. Today we saw a partnership between two institutions on either side of the Commonwealth who are able to reach more students and expand access to high-quality higher education thanks to the power of high-speed internet.”

The $10 billion dollar program will see Virginia will get $220 million to expand high-speed internet access to more than 76,800 homes and businesses — about 28 percent% of those that lack internet. As approved by the Department of Treasury, VATI’s plan is designed, upon project completion, to deliver reliable internet service that meets or exceeds symmetrical download and upload speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps), speeds that are needed for a household with multiple users to simultaneously access the internet to telework and access education and health monitoring.

Other states who were also chosen include Louisiana, New Hampshire and West Virginia. Gene Sperling, the White House American Rescue Plan coordinator, said he has been working on various efforts to close the digital divide since the Clinton administration and has never seen anything like what is happening now.

“Without question there has never been anything like a pandemic to create a national teaching moment that we cannot have equality unless all Americans have access to high speed affordable internet,” Sperling said.