Last week, Virginia State Delegate Kathy Byron introduced a bill that, if passed, will cripple attempts for municipalities to improve local connectivity. HB 2108, the “Virginia Broadband Deployment Act, imposes specific requirements on municipal networks that would greatly limit whether communities could offer Internet access or work with private sector partners.
The City of Roanoke and Franklin County wasted no time in unanimously passing resolutions to oppose the Virginia bill.
Franklin County Formally Opposes HB 2108
The Franklin County Board of Supervisors swiftly drafted their resolution in order to take it to the press conference in Richmond the next day. Reprinted below is the text of the Franklin County Resolution:
WHEREAS, broadband access and reliability are essential to citizens, businesses, and non-profits in Franklin County; and
WHEREAS, citizens, businesses, and non-profits desire faster and more reliable broadband speeds; and
WHEREAS, areas of Franklin County lack broadband access; and
WHEREAS, we seek to maximize County policy and funding options to improve broadband access and reliability; and
WHEREAS, Franklin County seeks to protect the proprietary information of local businesses;
NOW BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED, we the Franklin County Board of Supervisors do hereby formally oppose House Bill 2108, the Virginia Broadband Deployment Act.
City of Roanoke: "We Say No Way"
The City of Roanoke Council unanimously passed a similar resolution condemning the bill. Several council members specifically discussed the impact of such legislation on the new Roanoke Valley Network and on their community’s Internet access.
The Roanoke Times covered the discussion in detail. Councilman John Garland described how he is about to lose the sale on a house because the interested buyer cannot work from home on a DSL connection. Garland noted that the speed available at the house is what the proposed bill defines as "high-speed."
Councilman Bill Bestpitch also expressed frustration with how the state bill completely missed the reality of Roanoke’s situation:
“If we had private carriers willing to provide services at a competitive rate, we would never have wanted to get into this business.”
As other Virginia counties, cities, and towns consider the gravity of the situation and the fact that this bill could doom them to a future of grossly inadequate connectivity, these local resolutions can serve as models for their own communities.