The Northam Administration has dedicated a webpage (see COVID-19 Broadband Resources) to provide information about what both the federal government and Virginia’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are doing in response to the crisis. It includes a list of those ISPs that have signed on to the FCC’s “Keep Americans Connected” pledge to not terminate service or impose late fees 60 days due to circumstances from the virus, as well as open Wi-Fi hotspots in areas of need. Additionally, counties are deploying their resources to create Wi-Fi hotspots (including mobile applications) to bring internet access to their communities where it is lacking.
With the largescale migration to working and learning from home, and the increased demand for healthcare practitioners to schedule telehealth appointments in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, there is widespread recognition that the nation’s (and Virginia’s) internet infrastructure is not up to the task of serving our communities. Particularly hard hit is rural unserved, or underserved populations. Additionally, low-income populations encounter barriers to access related to the cost of equipment and subscription. VACo will continue to monitor both federal and state initiatives to address the internet access gap and provide updates on funding opportunities as well as “calls to action” to lobby for additional resources.
Please share your efforts, as well as barriers, to addressing the broadband gap in your county during COVID-19 by contacting Gage Harter at firstname.lastname@example.org. This will assist VACo in sharing best practices while documenting the need to be used in advocacy and outreach.