How to Bring Broadband to Your Community


Broadband access is increasingly critical infrastructure for every community, a critical element for government efficiency and responsiveness, economic development, education, public safety, healthcare and the conduct of peoples’ personal lives. What can a rural community or small city do if the dominant broadband providers aren’t in any hurry to build broadband infrastructure?

The Center for Innovative Technology has just published a manual, “Improving Broadband Access and Utilization in Virginia,” that lays out a roadmap and highlights examples of how several communities have taken matters into their own hands.

The most prominent is the City of Bristol in Virginia’s far southwest, which deployed its own fiber-to-the-premises in 2001, reaching 6,000 customers within the first two years. Bristol Virginia Utilities was the first municipality in the country to build a fiber network to deliver the triple play of phone, Internet and cable television. Though not as far along, the City of Danville built a fiber system connecting 120 local government and school buildings, and then expanded it to serve more than 100 businesses and, more recently, residential customers.

Other models include rural co-ops, like the one in Floyd County, and public-private partnerships, as seen in Franklin County and King and Queen County. The report suggests that communities begin with a citizen survey to identify unmet needs, form a stakeholder group that can aggregate demand and hold discussions with Internet Service Providers.

As an aside, the Tobacco Commission, much criticized on this blog (by me among others), helped fund a number of these initiatives. Accelerating the deployment of broadband infrastructure in under-served areas is one of the most worthwhile investments the Commission could make. Unlike a foot-loose manufacturing plant that comes then leaves ten years later,  fiber-optic cable doesn’t pick up and move away.


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  1. LifeOnTheFallLine Avatar

    If you want to see more success stories like the network that was built and operated in Bristol then you need to get the GA to role back it’s pro-ISP laws.

    “Legislators in Virginia have forbidden cities from cross-subsidizing money for the purposes of creating a municipal broadband installation. (This is something corporations can do without regulation.)

    Then to make matters worse, municipalities are required to artificially inflate prices to match the costs of private industries for materials, taxes, licenses, and more.”

  2. LifeOnTheFallLine Avatar


    “Virginia: Municipal electric utilities can offer phone and Internet services ‘provided that they do not subsidize services, that they impute private-sector costs into their rates, that they do not charge rates lower than the incumbents, and that [they] comply with numerous procedural, financing, reporting and other requirements that do not apply to the private sector.’ Other requirements make it nearly impossible for municipalities to offer cable service, except in Bristol, which was grandfathered.”

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      If this is true and I have no reason to doubt it – this is about as dumb as you can get.. and typical of the dunderheads in the GA these days..

      Where’s Jim Bacon when you need him on their case?

      1. virginiagal2 Avatar

        It’s correct and I also wish Jim and Peter would get on this.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    Probably not so much in Henrico – but out on the fringes – you’re starting to see about a 5K price premium if a rural/suburban home has access to high speed internet…

    There are two parts to HSI – first the cabling.. infrastructure – then the internet provider…

    Schools and community centers, libraries, fire/ems/other govt facilities seem like the perfect place to put HSI.

    It’s now to the point where schools without internet – are a real liability.

    and why not uses the schools to provide cellular wi fi to some radius around the school – zones where people of all ages can have access to online education?

    Now days – a lack of internet is considered tantamount to a lack of electricity.

    and kudos to the tobacco fund.. let’s see more of it…

    this is such an important thing to rural Virginia – and to the urban areas that subsidize rural Virginia to be a no brainer…

  4. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    Use of the Tobacco Fund to expand wireline and wireless broadband is about the only good effort the Commonwealth has done.

    While last mile connections in rural areas are often problematic, a big, but rarely discussed, issue is connections from local communities to backbone facilities. These connections can realistically be delivered only by big carriers. As the FCC lowered intercarrier compensation payments for voice calls, the big carriers raised their prices on private line connections to minimize revenue loss. Carriers were also permitted to de-average their prices, charging less in competitive, urban and suburban markets, and more in less competitive, rural and small community markets. This has the impact of making rural broadband slower and more expensive.

    The FCC has been investigating the pricing issue for years with a decision date no where in sight.

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