State Laws/Franchising

Virginia Bill Now Passes Muster With Broadband Authority

Latest amendment removes threat, says critic of measure 2/14/2017 9:12 AM Eastern
Pennington Gap in Virginia, where a new iteration of a muni broadband bill would put fewer restrictions on local authorities.
Credit: pfly/flickr, via CreativeCommons license 2.0 (https://www.flickr.com/photos/pfly/)

The Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority, which has opposed a bill to put conditions on municipal broadband buildouts in Virginia, said the latest iteration of the bill, which was amended Feb. 13 in the state Senate Labor and Commerce Committee, is no longer a threat to municipal broadband.

The telcom-backed bill—introduced in the Virginia assembly last month—would have allowed for municipal buildouts but only if they targeted unserved areas, which it defined as those where the average broadband speed is less than 10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up.

It would also have required an independent study to identify unserved areas before any buildouts and would put have put conditions on overbuilding of any existing service at any speed.

A municipality would also have had to provide access to rights of way on a first-come, first-serve basis to commercial providers and could not have cross-subsidized its broadband with regulated utility money.

The bill was already re-crafted once after the Democratic governor threatened to veto it.

It has since been amended yet again. Now absent are the clauses that the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority had said were "designed to limit the ability of local governments to serve their constituents and protect the long term economic viability of their communities."

"HB 2108 no longer poses a threat to local and municipal broadband authorities," said Frank Smith, president and CEO of the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority. "Instead it merely reasserts the very same laws and procedures in the Code of Virginia to which we all already operate and gladly adhere and abide.”  

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