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VA. Working to Increase Broadband Access

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Meeting of the Broadband Advisory Council Meeting of the Broadband Advisory Council
RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) - State leaders are working to bring broadband access to the many rural areas of Virginia that still don't have it.

"It is most definitely a challenge," said Virginia Systems for MetroCast Communications General Manager Bill Newborg.

Due to logistical and financial challenges, it can be a struggle for isolated neighborhoods to convince providers to expand service.

"And that's the $6 million question; how do you do it?" Newborg asked.

Friday, the Broadband Advisory Council met to check in on the status of access and strategic plans in the works.

"So we need to keep looking at ways and structures that we can partnership with and to be able to meet the needs," said 22nd District Delegate Kathy Byron (R).

There are still many communities - largely in central and southwest Virginia - where less than 55 percent of households have broadband internet.

"We have some that are well-connected, we have some that are not so well-connected," said Virginia Secretary of Technology Karen Jackson.

It's not just about watching shows on Netflix. The lapses in service also mean fewer tools and access for public safety agencies, hospitals and students. Projects like the EducationSuperHighway are working to fill the gaps, but it's taking time.

"If you don't have that partnership between the public sector and the private sector, there's going to be some areas that remain un-served. That's it," said Newborg.

Del. Byron and Newborg believe public-private partnerships between localities and businesses could be a compromise, and help communities gain more access.

Jackson says some schools are coming up with work-around solutions, like opening their doors after hours so that students can use the internet.

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