Commonwealth Connect Team Releases Public Wi-Fi Hotspot Map and other Broadband Resources Help Virginians Stay Connected during COVID-19 Response

May 6, 2020

Commonwealth Connect has recently released an interactive map of Public Wi-Fi hotspots to help those without access to broadband find locations where free Wi-Fi is available. As schools remain closed, certain businesses face restrictions, and individuals practice social distancing, connections to broadband are more important than ever to allow for continued learning, commerce, and connections to the wider world. This map is meant to serve as resource of locations in which individuals can connect and is the work of local officials, schools, libraries, and the Commonwealth Connect team. If you see any free public Wi-Fi hotspots missing or listed incorrectly, email commonwealthconnect@virginia.governor.gov.

Commonwealth Connect has also provided a website of broadband resources related to COVID-19, including updates from the Federal Communication Commission’s programs to Keep American’s Connected, waiving of Rural Health Care and E-Rate gift rules, $200 million in CARES Act funding for telehealth services to combat COVID-19. The site also includes links to efforts being undertaken by Internet Service Providers in Virginia and can be found here. 

As previously reported, the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is accepting comments and recommendation on the draft Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) Program Guidelines and Criteria for FY 2021 grant applications. VATI grants are available to local governments (includes towns, cities, counties, economic and industrial development authorities, broadband or wireless authorities, planning district commissions, etc.) to extend broadband service to currently unserved areas. To be eligible the local government must include a private-sector provider as a co-applicant.

Following the deadline for comments on the draft guidelines and criteria, the timeline for application submission and challenges are as follows:

  • June 9 | How-to-Apply workshop and webinar
  • July 13 | Deadline to notify DHCD intent of application
  • July 17 | DHCD posts potential applications on VATI website
  • August 17 | Application deadline
  • August 24 | DHCD posts applications on VATI website
  • September 23 | Challenge application deadline
  • November 9 | Deadline for responses to challenges

For more information on the VATI program go to https://www.dhcd.virginia.gov/vati

VACo Contacts: Jeremy R. Bennett and Joe Lerch, AICP

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