BRIDGEVILLE — Gov. John Carney, Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, members of the General Assembly and the Delaware Department of Technology and Information on Thursday announced a $110 million investment to cover every “last mile” of the state with high-speed broadband internet service.
The broadband infrastructure investment is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act — signed into law March 11 by President Joe Biden — and aims to make Delaware the first state to provide wireline broadband access to every home and business.
“Delawareans rely on stable internet connections to apply for jobs, help their children do homework, work from home or continue their education online,” said Gov. Carney. “This significant investment will recognize that reality and make sure all Delaware families have access to high-speed broadband service.
“We know that’s more important than ever after the lessons we’ve learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. I want to thank Delaware’s federal delegation for voting to approve the American Rescue Plan Act and President Joe Biden for signing this important legislation into law.”
Currently, about 11,600 Delaware homes and businesses lack access to wireline broadband service, which uses existing or future facilities of a telephone network to provide internet access.
The initiative will target investments to areas currently unserved or underserved and will prioritize projects that achieve “last-mile” connections to households and businesses.
Thursday’s announcement in Bridgeville aimed to draw attention to Sussex County, which has the largest underserved internet population in the state.
“Access to broadband is infrastructure,” said Lt. Gov. Hall-Long. “Just like when our roads, bridges and railways are broken, we fix them, and we need to do the same for our access to broadband and close these gaps.
“This critical investment from our federal government is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for us to make a real difference and deliver meaningful investments. I’m excited about the opportunity to really put our state in a position of strength to meet the challenges of tomorrow,” she added.
Sen. Carper and Rep. Blunt Rochester, both D-Del., pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic as an important reason for providing broadband access to every Delawarean.
“The coronavirus pandemic has shown just how much Americans rely on the internet for school, running a business or simply getting health care,” said Sen. Carper. “Unfortunately, too many people across the First State do not have access to a reliable internet connection.
“When our congressional delegation was working on the American Rescue Plan, we knew we needed to provide robust and flexible funding for states to address their own unique needs. I’m so glad the state is using funds from the American Rescue Plan to address this digital divide, and I applaud Gov. Carney’s leadership in combating this pandemic and moving Delaware forward.”
Rep. Blunt Rochester echoed Sen. Carper’s sentiments.
“Access to affordable and reliable broadband has been an issue for students, families and businesses throughout Delaware for years, especially for those in the most rural and urban areas of the state,” she said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the critical need for high-speed broadband service, as Delawareans found themselves learning, working and educating from home now more than ever.
“With $110 million secured through the American Rescue Plan that I voted to pass in March, Delaware will now be able to invest in major updates to our broadband infrastructure in the areas that need it most.”