How Dr. Tamarah Holmes plans on connecting the Commonwealth to broadband Banner Image
How Dr. Tamarah Holmes plans on connecting the Commonwealth to broadband Banner Image

How Dr. Tamarah Holmes plans on connecting the Commonwealth to broadband


Dr. Tamarah Holmes, Virginia’s broadband director, is living her dream of improving the lives of families in the Commonwealth through broadband access. This comes hot on the heels of her more than two decades in public service.

Virginia’s Office of Broadband is housed in the commonwealth’s Department of Housing and Community Development. Holmes, in addition to leading the Office of Broadband, is the program manager for the Virginia Appalachian Regional Commission.

This arrangement, Dr. Holmes anchors Virginia’s broadband expansion effort to the broader mission of the agency to improve communities through access to valuable resources, such as affordable housing. 

Dr. Holmes said, “This does help build those relationships that can move us further on broadband, but it’s in line with the mission of our agency overall.”

In November 2023, Virginia launched its challenge process resulting in 266,00 challenges across 162,000 eligible locations. The office’s broadband challenge team is currently in the process of reviewing each individual application as the process moves into the rebuttal phase.

“This was certainly much more engagement than we expected,” Dr. Holmes said. “Our challenge team is crucial to this effort and there’s plenty of work cut out for them in the weeks ahead.”

Virginia’s Office of Broadband’s challenge process was a joint effort between Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech Center for Geospatial Information Technology (CGIT) and Ready. Virginia Tech built and manages the Commonwealth's BEAD challenge portal. CGIT also recently developed the Commonwealth Connect map, the state's broadband availability map.

Ready’s mapping tools provided a public-facing view of the state’s locations and the agency’s success at placing a federal obligation to each location. Ready’s speed test was utilized throughout the challenge process for speed-based challenges.

Nearly a month into 2024, Dr. Holmes says that increasing her staff’s capacity to tackle priorities is a high goal. And, of course, finding more opportunities to maximize stakeholder engagement.

Virginia’s broadband efforts trace back to 2017 when DHCD was appropriated $1 million for a broadband expansion program. Dr. Holmes, at the time, was the policy director developing the program alongside the Community Business Launch program.

By 2019, Dr. Holmes was leading the newly formed Virginia Office of Broadband which saw budgets increase to $750 million in state funding by 2021. Virginia later became the first in the country to access its BEAD funding allocation of $1.4 billion.

Over the past five years, Dr. Holmes has traveled across Virginia engaging with community anchor institutions, nonprofit organizations, elected officials and residents to find non-traditional partners in closing the state’s digital divide.

Dr. Holmes, who earned her Ph.D. from Virginia Commonwealth University, says that her current efforts incorporate much of her academic research on utilizing mixed methods and social network analysis into her day-to-day work.

Dr. Holmes said, “This is important as we address all the obstacles that people have to broadband whether it’s connectivity, access or affordability.”

Prioritizing open communication with communities, internet service providers and other stakeholders, Dr. Holmes said, has been a vital part of Virginia’s success. 

It’s also important to remember that everyone wants the same thing: for all families to have access to reliable, affordable Internet service.