WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $9,685,734 in federal funding to support the expansion of broadband at three Virginia Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Awarded through the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program, this funding will allow Norfolk State University, Virginia State University, and Virginia Union University to improve existing internet networks and provide workforce development opportunities to students and surrounding communities.
“High-speed internet is no longer a nice-to-have – it’s a need-to-have, particularly at our institutions of higher ed,” the Senators said. “This funding for Norfolk State, Virginia State, and Virginia Union represents strong steps towards closing the digital divide, developing a tech savvy workforce, and improving connectivity at three of Virginia’s HBCUs and in their surrounding communities.”
The funding is distributed as follows:
- $3,898,789 for Norfolk State University to improve fiber connection on campus, create workforce development opportunities in STEM, IT, and cybersecurity careers, and provide off-site internet-focused training for students and local community members. These projects will leverage partnerships with Norfolk City Schools and local churches to expand job readiness for students of all ages and citizens of Norfolk.
- $2,987,765 for Virginia Union University to improve wireless connectivity on campus, hire additional IT staff, and offer digital skills development opportunities for prioritized students, faculty, and community members.
- $2,799,180 for Virginia State University to upgrade and install fiber optic cable, purchase laptops to distribute to freshmen, and implement a community coding initiative for K-12 students in the Ettrick-Petersburg region.
The Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program is a $268 million competitive grant program available to expand internet access and train information technology personnel at HBCUs, Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs). The funding was originally authorized by the government spending bill and COVID-19 relief package that was negotiated by Warner and supported by Kaine.
Warner and Kaine have long fought to expand access to broadband in Virginia. During negotiations for the bipartisan infrastructure law, Warner secured $65 billion in funding to help deploy broadband and decrease costs associated with connecting to the internet. As part of that funding, Virginia recently received $5 million to help make a strategic plan to deploy coverage. Warner also recently introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to ensure broadband investments are not considered taxable income.