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Broadband Access Remains Roadblock to Rural Prosperity

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Sean MacEntee / Flickr
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Yesterday, Governor McAuliffe opened his annual Summit on Rural Prosperity. The event brings business leaders, delegates and state officials together for two days of economic brainstorming. 

During his opening speech the governor touted the state's latest unemployment rate of 3.9%. But he quickly moved on to the elephant in the room - how to share the wealth with rural communities that still don't have high-speed internet.

“You cannot bring businesses to a community that doesn't have access to broadband.”

And it's not just businesses.

“We require our children to go online to do their homework and yet they can't access it.”

Keirra Scott, a waitress serving lunch to summit attendees, looked on as the governor spoke. She lives in nearby Weems where her internet connection is unreliable.

“I have kids; I'm starting school, so it's affecting us big time.”

The answer is somewhere between new technologies and state subsidies says William Shelton head of the Department of Housing and Community Development.

“We're looking for those communities that do not have service where there is a well thought out strategy for partnering with the private sector to move it forward.”

Once private funding runs out, state funding would kick in. Meantime, as with electric and telephone, the internet is slow to come to the farm. 

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