Kerrigan in the Richmond-Times Dispatch: To End the Digital Divide, States Should Follow Virginia’s Lead

By at 13 September, 2022, 12:55 pm

Access to broadband remains a priority issue for SBE Council, and the funding provided in the new federal infrastructure package is an opportunity for many communities and individuals to fully join the digital economy, and tap into the services and entrepreneurial opportunity that exists by using digital tools and platforms. But as SBE Council president & CEO Karen Kerrigan notes in a Richmond Times Op-Ed, there’s a productive approach versus a wasteful one in deploying broadband using tax dollars:

“The main bucket of funding is through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program. While the money is coming from the federal government, it will be up to all of the 56 states and territories to actually carry out the BEAD program’s goal of ending the digital divide by bringing broadband to unserved and underserved communities.

“As states start to design their programs with BEAD funding, they will receive applications from a variety of entities, including ISPs and municipalities seeking to build their own broadband networks. Yet as Virginia has proven, there are only a few scenarios where a local municipality should be tasked with building a network that its businesses and homes will rely on for internet access. One of the most critical decisions a state can make is to partner with a provider that has the resources and expertise to finally end the digital divide.

“Virginia’s broadband efforts also have been successful because the state realized early on that in order to bring all citizens online, every tool in the toolkit must be used. Commonwealth Connect’s policy of technology neutrality has been a critical part of the program’s success — whether it is traditional fiber to the premises or new technology like fixed wireless.”

Read the full piece here.


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