Tag: "roanoke valley"

Posted November 10, 2017 by lgonzalez

In October, the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority (RVBA), celebrated the completion of a 25-mile expansion of its open access fiber network. The completion of phase II of the network comes soon after the RVBA established office space in September and after the RVBA announced that it will be connecting new apartments in downtown Roanoke.

Growth Is Good

The $3.4 million expansion extends the network to a local library and toward the Tanglewood Mall. To celebrate, RVBA held a lighting event at the library. Last year, the Roanoke Board of Supervisors included the funding for the expansion in the budget, despite an intense astroturf campaign by local incumbents to turn constituents against the network. Supervisor Joe McNamara supported the expansion early on and spoke at the lighting ceremony.

With the new addition, the RVBA network totals approximately 80 fiber miles in the cities of Roanoke and Salem. This new expansion marks the beginning of more connectivity in areas of Roanoke County that are outside town limits.

Setting An Example

The project has piqued interest among neighboring counties. According to the Roanoke Times, Botetourt County is working with the RVBA on ways to improve connectivity and the Franklin County Board of Supervisors has announced a public hearing on forming its own broadband authority

As RVBA CEO Frank Smith said in his speech at the lighting ceremony, communities like Roanoke County need high-quality Internet access to compete with other places that also focus on quality of life as an economic development tool. He referred to the fact that Roanoke is not only competing with large cities, but must consider their standing against small and mid-sized communities such as Bozeman, Montana. He noted that a high percentage of high-tech companies are locating in places other than the largest cities because their talent want access to a quality of life that isn’t available in the large metros. The RVBA network is one tool in the community’s toolkit.

Check out the rest of the lighting...

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Posted September 12, 2017 by lgonzalez

Folks living in the Boxley Building in downtown Roanoke will soon have the choice of the community’s first Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Internet access delivered by publicly owned infrastructure. The Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority (RVBA) recently announced that one of the ISPs using the fiber has decided to expand its services to residential premises in the building.

Fulfilling The Purpose

“This goes back to the core, as far as why this was formed,” broadband authority President and CEO Frank Smith said. “To create a network that other players can come in and use. We’re doing what we set out to do.”

ABS Technology is based in Virginia Beach and has an office in Roanoke. The company is starting with the single apartment building but told the Roanoke Times they may offer last mile services to more Roanoke residential subscribers in future. ABS regional sales manager Greg Henderson said that the RVBA infrastructure enabled ABS to develop the project. Without it, he said “there is no way” the company would have been able to pursue a residential build out.

Better Connectivity, Better Community

RVBA provides several options for local businesses, including dark fiber, data transport, and Internet access. ISPs such as ABS lease fiber to serve local businesses and large institutions with the expertise to manage their own networks. The resource is helping to reinvigorate Roanoke and the surrounding community.

Earlier this year, RVBA connected a business accelerator downtown aimed at attracting and keeping talent at home. The project is a collaboration between the city, the Virginia Western Community College, and the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council. The city renovated an old historic building, the college will be offering business courses there, and the council will develop mentoring and networking opportunities for entrepreneurs who fill spaces at the incubator.

The Roanoke Valley has faced some tough times and the RVBA network is helping to stimulate economic development. The area had a reputation as a funding and...

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Posted July 24, 2017 by lgonzalez

People who live in rural America have known for a long time that urban areas have better access to Internet services. Recently, however, the issue has become a hot topic of conversation and analysis by policy experts, lawmakers, and the telecommunications industry. In a recent editorial by Virginia’s Roanoke Times, the outlet's leadership explained why “Third World standards” for Internet access won’t do for people who, by choice or circumstance, live in rural areas.

"Third World Connectivity"

The editors at the Times point to reporting done by the Wall Street Journal (reprinted here by MSN Money) that describes how rural America’s lack of high-quality Internet access puts it on the same economic footing as “the new inner city.” The Times quotes the WSJ:

Keep in mind the Journal is not some liberal organ typically associated with calling for more government intervention; editorially, this is the conservative voice of the nation’s business community. Its view (like ours) is purely an economic one: “Counties without modern Internet connections can’t attract new firms, and their isolation discourages the enterprises they have . . . Reliance on broadband includes any business that uses high-speed data transmission, spanning banks to insurance firms to factories.”

While the urban areas of the state average connectivity higher than the national average, much of the state - the rural areas - must contend with speeds that compare with countries like Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Nigeria.

countryside.jpg The editors at the Times point out that, much like in the 1930s when President Franklin D. Roosevelt vowed to electrify every rural community, private firms don’t venture where lack of profit doesn’t justify an investment. "This points the way to one possible fix that even the Journal highlights: Government intervention," writes the Times editors.

But they understand the hurdles that exist today that weren't so high when Roosevelt was working his plan to light up the farms. Public...

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Posted May 2, 2017 by lgonzalez

The Roanoke Broadband Valley Authority (RVBA) was busy early this legislative session helping to fight off a bill in the Virginia Legislature aimed at limiting local authority. Now that the bill has been all but neutralized by grassroots efforts, RVBA can dedicate 100 percent of its time to improving connectivity and economic development in Virginia’s Roanoke Valley.

Accelerating, Mentoring, Connecting

The RVBA just announced that its network is providing fast, affordable, reliable dark fiber services to a regional business accelerator in downtown Roanoke. The Regional Acceleration and Mentoring Program (RAMP) is a collaboration between the city of Roanoke, Virginia Western Community College (VWCC), and the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council. In a press release, Shivaji Samanta, Director of Information and Educational Technologies at Virginia Western said:

“Virginia Western has collaborated with the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority to provision fiber connectivity between its main campus and the two downtown Roanoke sites at the Claude Moore Education Center and the new entrepreneur training facilities inside the RAMP building. The project, delivered on time and within budget, provides VWCC with dedicated connectivity to its off-campus locations at speeds limited only by the equipment at the end-points for a fixed monthly cost.”

RAMP is located in an historic building that was once the Gill Memorial Hospital; the city used a $600,000 state grant to renovate the building and transform it into an incubator. VWCC will be offering business education courses at the facility and will offer faculty support, and the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council will develop mentorship and networking opportunities. Members of the Council also lead the RAMP Advisory Board.

Connecting the Business Community

This is the latest in what is sure to be more connections offered by the RVBA. Last fall, finance company, Meridium, signed up with the publicly owned network. The company needed dark fiber for Internet access and data transport for its downtown headquarters.

According to RVBA President and CEO Frank Smith:

“Dark Fiber is advantageous to growing businesses that wish to secure and invest up-front in...

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Posted February 8, 2017 by lgonzalez

On February 7th, the Virginia House of Delegates voted 72 - 24 to pass HB 2108, otherwise known as "Byron’s Bad Broadband Bill." The text of the bill was a revised version substituted by Del. Kathy Byron after Governor Terry McAuliffe, local leaders across the state, and constituents very handily let her know that they did not want the bill to move forward. The bill now moves to the Senate.

Byron’s original “Broadband Deployment Act” has been whittled down to a bill that still adheres to its main purpose - to protect the telephone companies that keep Byron comfortable with campaign cash. There is no mention of deployment in the text of the new draft, but it does dictate that information from publicly owned networks be made open so anyone, including national providers, can use it to their advantage.

According to Frank Smith, President and CEO of the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority (RVBA), 

...Virginia Freedom of Information Act stipulations already codified in the Wireless Services Authority Act are sufficient and the new requirements in Byron’s bill could require the broadband authority to reveal proprietary information about its customers.

...

“There’s nothing hidden under the table,” Smith said. “The Wireless Services Authority Act is sufficient because you all did your job in 2003.”

The broadband authority’s rates, books and board meetings already are open to the public.

Private providers would never be required to publicize information that could jeopardize their operations. The objective here is to discourage public private partnerships and prevent local governments from investing in the type of infrastructure that would attract new entrants into the region.

Not "Us" vs. "Them"

At a time when everything seems political, both...

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Posted February 3, 2017 by lgonzalez

Republican Delegates in the Virginia House Labor and Commerce Committee advanced HB 2108 yesterday, despite opposition from constituents, local leaders, and members of the telecommunications industry. A revised version of Byron’s Bad Broadband Bill now heads to the House Floor today for a vote from the entire body.

A bill titled the “Virginia Broadband Deployment Act” by its sponsor now contains nothing about “deployment” but retains provisions forcing publicly owned networks to reveal proprietary information that limit competition. In the hearing yesterday, President and CEO of the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority (RVBA) testified that this bill is overkill:

In front of the committee, Smith argued the Virginia Freedom of Information Act stipulations already codified in the Wireless Services Authority Act are sufficient and the new requirements in Byron’s bill could require the broadband authority to reveal proprietary information about its customers.

Under this bill, the broadband authority could have been forced to reveal information about Meridium — that GE Digital was planning to purchase the Roanoke-based company for $495 million, Smith said.

“There’s nothing hidden under the table,” Smith said. “The Wireless Services Authority Act is sufficient because you all did your job in 2003.”

The broadband authority’s rates, books and board meetings already are open to the public.

Our Christopher Mitchell noted that the attempt to force publicly owned networks into a state of "ultra-transparency" was also a thinly veiled attempt to ward off competition from potential public-private partnerships:

The opening of potentially proprietary information under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act regarding pricing, rates, and fees is something the private sector does not have to deal with and would strenuously object to. This is particularly harmful to potential public-private partnerships where I fear an incumbent would seek to punish the partner of a rival by constantly seeking...

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Posted January 25, 2017 by lgonzalez

"Byron’s Bad Broadband Bill" has been criticized from City Council meeting rooms, at Boards of Supervisors meetings, and from Mayors’ offices across the state. Last Wednesday, January 18th, opponents of the bill took their grievances to Richmond for a press conference hosted by the Friends of Municipal Broadband. In addition to several Delegates and Senators opposed to HB 2108, local officials and a representative from an Internet Service Provider appeared to describe why they believe the bill is bad for Virginia.

The News & Advance covered the press conference in which Del. Sam Rasoul described missed opportunities:

Some businesses pass on Roanoke Valley locations because company officials discover they can’t get internet service, Rasoul said. Then, there are other Roanoke businesses like the software company Meridium that want access to multiple service providers.

“Internet and access to high-speed internet is a basic human right now because it’s just that link to education, it’s that link to information, it’s that link to peoples’ livelihoods and that’s why we’re so passionate about it,” Rasoul said.

Nicholas Pascaretti, Executive Director of Eastern Shore Of Virginia Broadband Authority, described how municipal networks attract providers to rural areas where national companies won’t invest:

Scott Robertson, Executive Director and Secretary of the Rockbridge Area Network Authority (RANA), described incredible savings and access to unprecedented capacity in local schools in Rockbridge County:

Ray Ferris, Roanoke City Councilman and local attorney, describes HB 2108 as a shining...

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Posted January 24, 2017 by htrostle

Three more Virginia communities declared opposition to the proposed state legislation that would limit municipal networks. Nelson County, Chesapeake, and Virginia Beach all have spoken out against the bill, HB 2108. We expect more communities to speak out over the next few weeks.

Last week, we reported that Franklin County and the City Council of Roanoke passed resolutions condemning Byron's bill. Roanoke is concerned that the bill will undo all the time, effort, and investment put into the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority's open access network; Franklin County is considering ways to improve local connectivity with private partners.

Most of the resolutions and statements so far have passed with unanimous support. The Norfolk County’s Board of Supervisors are set to vote on a resolution this Tuesday, January 24th.

Statements Support Internet Access, Condemn HB 2108

The resolution from Virginia Beach specifically pointed out that the bill undermines the goals of Virginia’s Broadband Advisory Council. Del. Kathy Byron is the author of the bill and the chair of that council. 

“WHEREAS, the City Council of Virginia Beach supports the mission of the Broadband [Advisory] Council (“BAC”) as organized under Va. Code 2.2-2699.3 and its purpose of expediting deployment and reducing the cost of broadband access in the Commonwealth; however, passage of HB2108 and the Act would produce results that directly conflict with this purpose;”

Read all of the statements opposing HB 2018 here:

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Posted January 20, 2017 by htrostle

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....

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Posted January 19, 2017 by lgonzalez

When Delegate Kathy Byron introduced HB 2108, cheekily titled the “Broadband Deployment Act,” she might have not have expected so much attention from local and national reporters. Local media outlets, especially in areas directly threatened by the bill, are alerting constituents about threats to improve local connectivity. National news is also covering the story, describing how Virginia communities that can't get high-quality connectivity from national providers could fall victim to big cable and DSL lobbyists if HB 2108 passes. Constituents are taking notice, but the legislative session is just getting started in Virginia.

Local Media Reaching Local Constituents

The Roanoke Valley is especially vulnerable to the perils of HB 2108. After a contentious process, the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority (RVBA) completed an open access fiber-optic network to meet the needs of local businesses, schools and libraries, and other facilities. Byron’s bill would make it practically impossible for the RVBA to expand to nearby counties by preventing them from obtaining high-quality connectivity and the benefits that accompany it. Without the ability to serve more customers, the RVBA faces a tenuous future. Smith told WSLS TV 10:

logo-wsls-large.png

“It hurts the area. It hurts us as the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority, but more importantly it hurts across the Commonwealth of Virginia, its ability to be able to serve and use technology to serve economic development,” said Frank Smith.

The Roanoke Times quickly reported on the bill when Byron introduced it, noting that it would stifle the RVBA’s attempts to encourage competition, an economic development driver:

logo-roanoke-times.png

“It may serve the incumbent [providers] to reduce competition,...

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