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U.S. program to boost rural Va. broadband access

Thursday - 7/26/2012, 1:57pm  ET

RICHMOND, Va. - The Federal Communications Commission is targeting $2.1 million toward boosting access to high-speed Internet to rural Virginians.

The FCC's Connect America Fund will help CenturyLink Inc. connect more than 2,000 locations statewide to broadband service. Under the deal, CenturyLink must complete two-thirds of its new broadband installations within two years, and the rest by the third year.

FCC officials say that about 7,000 more people in Virginia will be able to access high-speed Internet through these efforts.

About 744,000 Virginians _ nearly 38 percent of the rural population _ lack access to broadband, the agency said. Virginia has the eighth-lowest rural broadband access in the nation.

While many areas of Virginia have access to high-speed Internet, the federal agency said that more than 80 percent of the population in places like Highland, Surry, Giles, Dickenson, Madison and Amelia counties lack broadband access.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a news release that access to broadband means access to jobs and economic opportunities, as well as better education and health care.

Connect America is a national public-private effort to connect 19 million rural Americans to high-speed Internet by 2020.

As part of the first phase of the effort, officials say the more than $100 million in early public funding will be matched by tens of millions of dollars in private investment, serving 36 states with unserved rural communities. Officials say that nearly $46 billion in public investment from the Connect America Fund over the next ten years will spur billions more in private investment.

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