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Spanberger's Efforts to Expand Rural Broadband Access in Virginia

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Rural broadband may be coming to a farm near you, thanks to new money from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger explained the need for rural broadband by telling the story of one of her constituents from Amelia County. She works on her family’s beef and cattle farm. 

“And she says when the internet is down, I can’t do simple things like process payments, send liabilities payments or check the radar for the guys out in the fields,” Spanberger said.

That’s one of the reasons why she pushed for an additional $55 million to expand ReConnect grants to rural communities. That’s a 10% increase over the current program. Here in Virginia that money could go to Powhatan County or Culpeper County, both places that have applied for millions of dollars.

“I don’t know anyone in economic development right now who doesn’t consider broadband to be fundamental infrastructure," says John Provo, director of economic development at Virginia Tech. "It’s just like electricity was in another era.”

One in four rural Virginians lacks high-speed internet access. That’s according to a recent report from the Federal Communications Commission.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.