Broadband access and affordability are some of the biggest challenges facing local governments across the Commonwealth. On September 5, VACo partnered with VML and VCTA (Virginia Broadband Association) to host a broadband summit in Richmond for more than 150 attendees interested in public private partnerships and means and methods of improving broadband access in their communities. This summit was a unique partnership between multiple local government associations and the broadband industry examining ways of collaboration to achieve common goals.
Universal access to high speed internet levels the playing field by bringing communities across the Commonwealth into the 21st century. It is a necessity of modern life and has impacts in commerce, education, health, public safety and almost every area of interest to local government. Under Universal Service, the principle that all Americans should have access to communications services, high-speed Internet is an essential communications technology.
Evan Feinman, Executive Director of the Tobacco Commission Revitalization Commission & Governor Northam’s Chief Broadband Advisor and Courtney Dozier, Deputy Broadband Advisor and Chief Deputy at the Department of Housing and Community Development provided the latest updates on the State’s efforts on this front. This included a thorough discussion of the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI) and the launch of the Commonwealth Connect website, which details funding opportunities, planning documents, and solicitation models used by local governments.
With many opportunities for expanded access involving close cooperation and partnerships between local governments and private internet service providers (ISPs), the summit was an opportunity for dialogue among stakeholders and the sharing of best practices. VACo Executive Director Dean Lynch moderated a panel detailing case studies of successful projects across Virginia that have been awarded VATI and Tobacco Commission funding. Audience members engaged the panel with thought-provoking questions on ways in which local government can best work with ISPs to expand coverage.
Other panels and speakers examined the differences between and uses of commercial and residential broadband, affordability programs for low-income Virginians to access broadband, the role of broadband in telehealth, likely technological advancements that will change the how broadband is used and delivered, the latest news from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and updates on the middle mile pilot programs currently underway through Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power.
The 2019 Broadband Summit was a great success and VACo offers our sincerest gratitude to our association partners, event sponsors, guest speakers and to everyone who made time to join us for the event. Slides from the meeting, the agenda, and speaker biographies can be found here, here, and here respectively. VACo will continue to advocate for more and improved tools to expand broadband coverage and to highlight other success stories developed by local governments.
VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett