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Virginia Tobacco Region Awards $8 Million in Grants, and Senate Passes Broadband Research Legislation

Emily McPhie

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On Thursday, the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission awarded almost 8 million dollars to fourteen counties across rural Virginia for the development of broadband services, reported The News & Advance.

Commission Chairman Kathy Byron highlighted the essential role increased broadband access will play in economic growth, particularly in the tourism industry. “People who visit generally bring their business with them and they need dependable access where they don’t lose that connection,” she said. “Everyone has become so dependent on being connected.”

The commission’s grant follows Comcast’s announcement on Wednesday of a new network expansion project in Smith Mountain Lake, which will bring internet services to over 7,000 homes and businesses in the small Virginia community.

Senate passes broadband research legislation

On Wednesday, the Senate passed the Measuring the Economic Impact of Broadband Act, which would require the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Technology to study the effects of broadband deployment on the economy.

“In the 21st century economy, broadband is a critical force for creating jobs, leveling the playing field, and increasing opportunity,” said the bill’s co-sponsor Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., in a statement. “This bipartisan legislation will ensure that we have more reliable, publicly available economic data in order to make informed decisions about expanding broadband, connecting our communities, and keeping us competitive in an increasingly digital world.”

The federal government does not currently produce statistics of broadband’s economic impact. Many research institutions and state broadband offices have emphasized the importance of having this data.

“This legislation is an important step toward bridging the digital divide because it will provide the data necessary to help us as policymakers make decisions regarding broadband investment and accessibility,” said co-sponsor Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V.

(Photo of Kathy Byron advocating for Virginia broadband deployment by Bob Brown for The News & Advance.)

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