Virginia Covering the “Last Mile” with Rural Broadband Grants

Last month Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced more than $18.3 million in grants to address the broadband gap in underserved areas and increase access to healthcare and other necessary services.

“Broadband is a necessity for communities to attract business, for students to use educational resources, and for Virginians to receive healthcare through telemedicine,” Northam said in a press release. “My administration is committed to expanding broadband access to every part of Virginia, so that all of our citizens have access to the opportunities that connectivity make possible.”

The state-funded Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI) will disperse $18.3 million to 12 different rural projects to improve broadband connectivity in “last-mile” communities. The program includes $35 million in matching funds and is expected to impact more than 36,000 households.

The VATI program’s implications for healthcare access are significant: last fall the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) named broadband access as a top barrier to telehealth implementation. And Virginia is not alone in addressing healthcare access through broadband. Illinois is investing $420 million in Connect Illinois, a program to boost broadband for telehealth, education, and economic development.

From Theresa Eagleson, director of the Illinois’ Department of Healthcare and Family Services:

“For so many rural and underserved areas, telehealth means access to comprehensive healthcare, which can be as important as solid and well-maintained roads.”

Click here for the MHealthIntelligence article on the Virginia Broadband Grants:

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