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Survey aims to combat digital divide among Virginia communities

digital divide

Statewide survey to gather data that will help develop the Virginia Digital Opportunity Plan

A new statewide survey is working to bridge the digital divide among Virginia communities and offer all residents the necessary tools for learning, employment and other essential services. (Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash)

RICHMOND, Va. — A new statewide survey is working to bridge the digital divide among Virginia communities and offer all residents the necessary tools for learning, employment and other essential services.

The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development Office of Broadband recently announced the launch of a statewide survey to gather data that will help develop the Virginia Digital Opportunity Plan.

Digital opportunity is when all individuals and communities have the information technology needed for full participation in today’s society, democracy and economy, according to the National Digital Inclusion Alliance.

The Virginia Digital Opportunity Plan will enable Virginians and eligible entities to apply for federal broadband funding from the Digital Equity Capacity Grant program. Grants will be used to improve the affordability of internet services in Virginia, increase digital literacy programming and resources, and fund unique programs that address the digital divide beyond access to physical broadband infrastructure.

Conducted by the Southeastern Institute of Research in partnership with Virginia DHCD, the survey aims to understand how Virginia citizens access and use internet services.

Virginians are encouraged to complete the 10-minute survey to help the Virginia broadband office ensure that residents have access to affordable, reliable, high-speed internet—a persisting problem in rural America.

In 2021, the Federal Communications Commission found that 17% of rural Americans lacked fixed broadband service at minimum speeds of 25/3 Mbps, compared to 1% of urban Americans.

For many rural communities, access to health care, government services and educational and business opportunities can only be gained by using broadband services and sophisticated technologies that require high-speed connections.

For farmers in rural areas, broadband access is essential to managing and operating successful businesses, but 18% of U.S. farms have no access to the internet, according to a 2021 U.S. Department of Agriculture report.

Farmers and ranchers depend on broadband to ship food, fuel and fiber across the country and around the world; follow commodity markets; communicate with customers; access new global markets; and comply with regulations.

Limited broadband access impedes farmers’ ability to embrace technology that allows their businesses to be more efficient, economical and environmentally friendly. Much of the latest technology, like precision agriculture, requires broadband connections for data collection and analysis performed on the farm and in remote data centers.

For more information on rural broadband and its impact on American agriculture and communities, visit fb.org/issue/infrastructure/rural-broadband.

To participate in the online survey, visit dhcd.virginia.gov/digital-opportunity. The survey is available in English, Spanish, Arabic, Russian and Ukrainian. Paper copies of the survey are available through the Virginia DHCD website.

–Virginia Farm Bureau

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