FCC Chairman Discusses Improving Internet Connections in Shenandoah Valley

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai speaking in Waynesboro FCC Chairman Ajit Pai speaking in Waynesboro
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai FCC Chairman Ajit Pai
Christina Cain Christina Cain
Tim Biltz Tim Biltz
Dan Funk Dan Funk

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is traveling around the region to discuss bringing broadband internet to rural areas.

Chairman Ajit Pai is going into communities to hear how the FCC can help small broadband providers connect more people.

Staunton Creative Community Fund Director Christina Cain sees lack of connectivity as a barrier to business in rural Virginia.

“It's really hard for our small businesses to run their companies from their kitchen or small office when they're afraid they're going to drop a call,” she said.

“Closing the digital divide is the FCC's top priority,” he said.

Pai visited Waynesboro Tuesday, July 11, for a meeting with telecommunications companies that serve the Shenandoah Valley, the president of Blue Ridge Community College, economic development leaders, and elected officials.

“I think trying to tailor our rules and our subsidy programs to match the realities on the ground is increasingly critical. It's important for us to stretch those scarce dollars as far as we can,” Pai said.

“There's many people who just don't have good internet access at home, or it's not reliable,” said software engineer Dan Funk.

The chairman told the crowd that President Trump will propose an infrastructure bill that will include funding for broadband projects.

He also says the FCC is holding companies accountable to provide the high-speed access they promise rural areas when they take government subsidies.

“One of the things that really frustrates a lot of Americans is that the FCC might allocate the funding and then we don't see the results on the back end,” the chairman said.

Lumos Networks CEO Tim Biltz said he wants the federal government to encourage private investment in broadband. His company is working on a project to bring broadband to about 2,000 homes over the next 10 years.

“Over regulating that space would be very difficult for us to raise the capital to invest,” said Biltz.

Chairman Pai visited West Virginia Monday, and will next head to Maryland.