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The creation of a broadband authority puts the Roanoke Valley one step closer to accelerating to ultra-fast Internet speeds.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
There is no time to waste in building a broadband Internet structure that will keep the Roanoke Valley competitive. Without it, the region will wither and watch futilely while others whiz by. They already are.
Necessity in catching up with other areas with super speeds and capabilities is evident the haste that public officials in Roanoke, Salem, Roanoke County and Botetourt County have come to agree: They must join forces so that all can thrive. They plan now to not just catch up, but to build a better, quicker network than all others.
On Monday, Roanoke City Council agreed to join with its neighbors to form the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority that will be charged with building a broadband infrastructure capable of supporting the needs of business, industry, education and health care. The other localities are expected soon to join in the formation of the authority with a five-person board — the city managers and county administrators holding four seats and a citizen the fifth — that will guide the development of the infrastructure.
The authority is structured so that its board can work with Virginia Tech and other colleges, Vinton and the Western Virginia Water Authority in designing the network and billing structure, but it cannot extend service into other political jurisdictions without approval by the four localities.
The authority board will be charged with listening to the experts and the public in deciding how best to finance and construct broadband infrastructure, the role that existing Internet service providers will play and what it could do to spur competition and create new business ventures. Already, the broadband initiative has won the support of a number of businesses.
While Roanoke has set aside $1 million to help launch the broadband project, the authority eventually will be able to obtain bonds once it works out its financing and operations and demonstrates its ability to pay the debt.
The board will need to make many decisions with little time to tarry since the region’s capabilities are lagging. Businesses already are encountering hiccups when overloading the existing network. And other regions beckon with faster speeds. The Roanoke Valley is too large and well off economically to have qualified for federal funds and tobacco-relief funds that have brought broadband to rural and struggling areas in Southside and far Southwest Virginia. But it isn’t large enough to attract providers that would build bigger, better networks in order to compete for customers.
The region has no choice but to build its own network. An authority charged specifically with that task should best be able to hire the experts and vet the options so that Roanoke Valley accelerates to warp speed.
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