California, Virginia allocate $6.7 billion for broadband

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The states are stepping up as Congress continues to weigh a federal infrastructure package which could devote tens of billions more to addressing the broadband gap. (efetova/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

The governors of California and Virginia earmarked a combined $6.7 billion to fuel broadband expansions in their states, as Congress dragged its feet approving an infrastructure package which could provide billions more from federal coffers.

Earlier this week, California governor Gavin Newsom signed into law legislation which will distribute $6 billion in funding for broadband over the next few years. This includes $3.25 billion to build, operate and maintain state-owned open access milled mile fiber infrastructure and $2 billion for last-mile connections. An additional $750 million will be set aside in a loan loss reserve fund to help local governments and non-profits secure financing for broadband projects.

Newsom said in a statement the investment will “make broadband more accessible than ever before, expanding opportunity across the spectrum for students, families and businesses – from enhanced educational supports to job opportunities to health care and other essential services.”

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Meanwhile, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam last week announced it would use $700 million of the $4.3 billion awarded to the state in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to accelerate a goal to deliver universal broadband to residents. Northam originally set a 2028 target for the plan when it was announced in 2018. But with the additional funding, the state is now aiming to bring that date forward to 2024.

Approximately 233,500 unserved locations remain in the state, Northam’s office said in a press release.

The states are moving forward as Congress continues to weigh a fresh federal infrastructure package which could devote tens of billions more to addressing the U.S. broadband gap. President Joe Biden initially pitched a proposal with $100 billion set aside for broadband in March, but that figure was scaled back to $65 billion in June following negotiations with Senate leaders. Congress has yet to approve the legislation.

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Several other states have taken action during the four months of federal debate. In May, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed legislation allocating $100 million to fund the state’s broadband grant program. And last week, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced $30 million in broadband funding awards to expand internet access to more than 12,000 additional households.