More than 130 attendees participated in the Broadband Together 2022 conference in Henrico County May 18 and 19. The conference was a partnership of VACo, the Virginia Municipal League and the Broadband Association of Virginia and included experts and leaders in industry, state and local government.
Topics included new federal funding programs such as the Affordable Connectivity (ACP) Program and the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, as well as the new Virginia Line Extension Customer Assistance Program (LECAP). LECAP provides a financial assistance to certain income qualifying households to connect to a roadway or easement containing telecommunications infrastructure when the distance exceeds standard connection drop of the internet service provider. The breadth of the new programs, combined with inpouring of state and federal dollars, presents both a great opportunity as well as logistical challenges to connecting Virginians to fast, affordable, and reliable internet access. Presenters and attendees engaged in interactive discussions of ways to collaborate on consumer education, workforce training, and the efficient deployment of infrastructure.
One new tool now available to citizens, local governments and internet providers alike is the online Broadband Planning and Analysis Toolbox created by the Virginia Tech Center for Geospatial Information Technology. A key asset in the toolbox is the Virginia Broadband Map Book Portal a dynamic viewer that enables users to explore current broadband availability and speeds across the Commonwealth. The data provided in the viewer provides a more accurate and granular view than that of federal mapping resources. The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) encourages localities to utilize the map as a valuable resource in developing applications for Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI) grants.