Both Norfolk and Virginia Beach city councils have passed resolutions opposing the Virginia Broadband Deployment Act – a bill that city officials say would interfere with better broadband speeds and affordable internet service statewide.
Proposed by Del. Kathy J. Byron, R-Bedford, HB 2108 calls for the development of broadband services to rural areas that are underserved before municipalities are able to further advancement of their own broadband services or lease their infrastructure to new service providers.
If passed, HB 2108 would require municipalities to prove their need for local, government-run broadband services. The bill would also give private broadband providers leeway to continue increasing service rates while maintaining download speeds of about 10 mbps and upload speeds of about 1 mbps in the Southside – speeds that are considered standard by the bill’s language, but in reality, are much lower than average speeds nationally.
According to the National Broadband Map, Virginia is currently ranked at 41 for the fastest broadband speeds in the country. Providers outside of the region are often reaching download speeds up to 100 mbps or higher.
Virginia Beach council member Ben Davenport read the resolution, which he said he requested personally, at a recent city council meeting.
Davenport said that the city supports the Broadband Authority Council’s project that is “expediting deployment and reducing the cost of broadband access in the commonwealth,” but should the bill pass, it would directly conflict with the authority council’s plans.
“The city has successfully negotiated with private companies to host various international submarine cables that will land in Virginia Beach, which will further provide connectivity and technological benefits throughout the commonwealth and beyond,” Davenport said.
Norfolk city council member Andria McClellan also expressed apprehension of HB 2108’s impending conflicts and said that the resolution “is very important for competition and for broadband in the city of Norfolk and in the region” at a council meeting on Tuesday evening.
Norfolk resident Ellis James spoke to city council members and encouraged them to vote in support of the resolution, voicing his concern for the bill’s intentions across the commonwealth.
Both city councils unanimously voted for the resolutions in opposition to Byron’s broadband deployment act. A similar resolution was also passed by Chesapeake City Council.
HB 2108 is still scheduled to go before the Labor Committee and House Committee.