RD867 - Department of Health Facilities Broadband American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF) – December 29, 2021

Executive Summary:

As millions of Virginians pivoted to remote work and life during the COVID-19 pandemic, it underscored the significant importance of universally available, high-speed, reliable, and affordable broadband coverage for all citizens. Individuals and families continue to rely on the internet to increase their awareness of COVID variants, locate local healthcare resources, and request immunization records.

Modernizing and upgrading the internet infrastructure of Local Health District (LHD) offices and client service areas throughout the Commonwealth is fundamental to protecting the health and promoting the well-being of all people in Virginia. Critical to continuing Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) unprecedented COVID-19 response effort is the delivery of broadband service at speeds of at least 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 20 Mbps upload. Sufficient broadband allows for timeliness and accuracy in the delivery of public health services that use web-based services (where services are scheduled, documented, and reported via those web-based systems and are reported to multiple different sources – such as vaccinations to VIIS).

With nearly 96% of assessed VDH buildings currently unserved or underserved by broadband (speeds less than 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload), significant internet infrastructure upgrades are imperative for VDH to adequately serve Virginians post- COVID-19. The ARPA SLFRF funding will be used to upgrade unserved and underserved VDH facilities via fiber optic broadband connection, wireless 5G broadband connection, or reliable wireline connection.

Over the last three months, VDH conducted a broadband gap analysis and identified facilities that require bandwidth improvements and sequenced them based on criteria which included current connectivity sufficiency, utilization requirements, and socioeconomic factors of the population and communities served. Following the successful completion of broadband and wireless 5G pilot programs, improvements will be made to VDH facilities in batches, beginning with the sites identified as having the greatest needs.