Virginia is leading on ending the broadband divide

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Experts have concluded that Virginia is a national leader in bridging the digital divide. Virginia's success in broadband can be attributed to several factors: the governor’s consistent prioritization of broadband, bipartisan support and funding from the General Assembly, an efficient and successful Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) program and enabling electric utilities to deploy middle-mile infrastructure. This framework will deliver universal broadband throughout the commonwealth and it is a model for many other states in our nation. Virginia addressed the unfortunate fact that it’s expensive to deploy and operate telecommunication infrastructure in rural areas. Virginia and several local governments have leveraged hundreds of millions in public funds to help build last-mile connections between rural residences and nearby infrastructure. The state’s flagship VATI program continues to support broadband deployment in hard-to-serve parts of the state. Another critical step Virginia has taken involves empowering electric utilities to be part of the solution, enacting legislation to give electric utilities the flexibility to build middle-mile fiber that connects communities to the core of the network. It also established a three-year pilot project in which Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power could lease excess fiber capacity to broadband providers aiming to reach unserved communities. I can say without reservation that Virginia is leading the pack in establishing a framework for what I like to call “digital opportunity” for all its citizens.

[Ajit Pai, a Virginia resident, is a partner at Searchlight Capital Partners, which is investing in a Virginia broadband provider. He served as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission from 2017 to 2021.]

Opinion: Virginia is leading on ending the broadband divide