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Realizing New Need — and Opportunity — Through the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic elevated the critical nature of access to fast and affordable internet service for people. Demand for high-speed internet access, or broadband, soared to new heights as individuals used it for activities like work and study from home, applying for unemployment benefits, seeing friends and visiting the doctor.

At the outset of the pandemic, Cameron first began to understand this fuller impact as local school systems needed to quickly pivot to virtual learning. What began as an emergency grant program responding to this need developed into a full-scale initiative over the next two years to help create universal broadband access in areas that had none. Tens of millions of Americans either lack access to, or cannot afford, quality internet service, and the gap is particularly acute in rural communities. Consistent with this national data, in The Cameron Foundation’s service area, Sussex and Dinwiddie counties showed the greatest gaps.

The availability of significant federal and state pandemic relief funds for broadband revealed a rare opportunity for The Cameron Foundation to work with the private sector and local, state and federal agencies to bring about transformational change in these communities. The Foundation committed $1.15 million to Sussex ($500,000) and Dinwiddie ($650,000) counties to help these rural localities meet a match requirement for a state broadband grant program to achieve universal internet coverage. Cameron’s commitment leveraged $19 million in financial support from the state, the two counties, and a private internet service provider, and the investment will result in an estimated 7,300 households gaining internet access.

To read more stories like this, visit the Foundation’s 2020/21 Biennial Report.