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Suffolk city leaders hope federal funding will help boost internet access

Hampton Roads rural areas could see some funding to increase broadband services.

Billions of dollars of the infrastructure bill are coming to Virginia to increase internet access in the commonwealth. This could help many people living in rural areas in Hampton Roads.

Some families in Suffolk said their internet connectivity needs improvement. 

“The wind blows the opposite direction and the internet goes out," said Suffolk resident Patricia Burgos. 

Suffolk is 430 square miles, a lot of that is rural areas where people don’t have access to high-speed internet.

“When you got back into a country road, you lose everything. There’s a lot of dead spots," said Justin Burgos.

The Burgos family lives in one of those areas. They tell me the pandemic only made the need for the internet greater.

“We struggle with being able to connect to Netflix, do online schooling and my online schooling," said Burgos.

The couple said they don’t have a choice on the type of internet they can get.

“We don’t really have a lot of options for internet. We have one provider and the provider that we have is not a good provider," said Burgos.

In President Biden’s infrastructure bill around 40% of Virginians live in areas where there is only one provider.

Suffolk City Manager Albert Moor says they are using money from the CARES and American Recovery Plan Act to expand broadband internet projects.

But Moor says the infrastructure bill would provide additional funding to get faster and reliable internet for families. 

Moor's full statement is below: 

“The City of Suffolk is comprised of 430 square miles of land with a large portion in rural areas. Due to the impacts of COVID-19 on our community, it has become increasingly necessary for residents to have access to broadband internet service in their homes. Currently, there are large portions of the City which lie in rural areas which do not have access to high speed internet. City Council and City staff have made a commitment to work toward universal broadband availability for Suffolk residents. Both Federal and State funding sources have become more accessible in the past two years and have created opportunities to capitalize on monies to help providers expand their service in our City.

The City has allocated money from CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) Act and American Recovery Plan Act funding to spur the expansion of broadband internet projects in the City’s rural areas that are underway in partnership with Charter/Spectrum. In addition, there have been a number of RDOF (Rural Digital Opportunity Fund) awards to broadband providers in the City of Suffolk by the FCC. Additionally, the City of Suffolk was part of a regional grant effort led by the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission which included Suffolk, Isle of Wight, and Southampton County, and we are currently awaiting the results of the VATI Grant award. 

The President’s Infrastructure Package would provide additional funding to help us move this process forward so that all citizens of Suffolk, regardless of where they live, have access to broadband internet service.”

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