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Commonwealth's Counties

Broadband bill passes the House; patron agrees to strike language harmful to local authorities

With a pledge from the patron to remove language that would effectively halt public-private partnerships to deploy broadband to unserved and underserved areas, HB 2108 (Byron) passed the House and will be voted on in Senate Commerce and Labor Committee Monday afternoon.

It is anticipated that Delegate Kathy Byron will request to strike language to remove FOIA exemptions that are in direct conflict with existing law for establishing public-private partnerships. It is important that this provision be removed because such exemptions were adopted by the legislature to give localities the ability to partner with private sector providers in service provisioning. Without them, trade secrets and intellectual property will be open to the public and competitors. This would effectively limit the willingness of private internet service providers to explore and potentially partner successfully with localities to provide broadband.

The original bill was amended twice to remove many elements that localities opposed, with the only remaining objection being removal of the FOIA exemptions. This is because it could halt efforts by localities to deploy broadband to serve schools, businesses, and residential areas. When the bill is amended to strike the removal of FOIA exemptions, VACo will no longer oppose.

VACo Members – Share your thoughts on FlagPoll.

VACo Contact: Joe Lerch, AICP

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