Proposed legislation could halt local broadband efforts

By Angela Hatcher - Reporter

ROANOKE (WSLS 10 ) - Just as the first business customers sign up and sign on with municipal broadband in the Roanoke Valley, an effort is underway in Richmond to stop further connection. Lynchburg area Delegate Kathy Byron introduced the Virginia Broadband Deployment Act. The legislation would allow a locality to own and operate a broadband system only if a variety of conditions are met.

The bill would limit how much tax money is spent by the government to provide internet service in areas that are already covered by private internet service providers. Frank Smith, President and CEO of the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority, authority says that could stop the authority's planned broadband expansion.

The authority sells internet service to government, business and education sectors and to other service providers, who can then sell it for residential use.

Fifty miles of fiber are already up and running. Roanoke County approved phase two, another 25 to 30 miles.

Smith said the legislation would also prevent the authority from partnering with outlying counties.

"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.

Critics say this legislation is designed to line the pockets of the private service providers.

One of those providers, Verizon, is the second largest donor to Byron's campaign. The Virginia Telecommunications Association, AT&T, Century Link, and Comcast also show up in an online list of Byron campaign donors.

Delegate Byron was in General Assembly session Friday, but said she would get back to us.

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