RD313 - Department of Health Facilities Broadband American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF) – June 2022
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) seeks to upgrade the internet infrastructure of Local Health District (LHD) offices and client service areas throughout the Commonwealth to enable the delivery of broadband service at speeds of at least 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 20 Mbps upload. As millions of Virginians pivoted to remote work and life during the COVID-19 pandemic, it underscored the 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.
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the demand for timely and accurate health data from VDH, which is necessary for public health decision-making and transparency with the public. In addition, sufficient broadband allows for timeliness and accuracy in the delivery of public health resources 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 Virginia Immunization Information System, VIIS).
With nearly 96% of assessed VDH buildings currently unserved 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 has launched a pilot project to deliver broadband to 17 sites across the Commonwealth. VDH selected 3 vendors capable of servicing the sites and utilized the pilot to test the quality of these vendors, better understand the end-to-end process for implementing broadband, and collect lessons learned to apply when implementing broadband at the remaining VDH sites. While the pilot project is still ongoing, VDH has used lessons learned from the pilot to kick-off Phase 1 of 3 at an additional 37 sites across the Commonwealth.