The Virginia towns of Roanoke and Salem have joined with the counties of Roanoke and Botetourt to find ways to bring reliable internet access to the region. According to the Roanoke Times, the newly formed Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority (RVBA) plans to tackle connectivity in a way that the group describes as “game-changing.”
The RVBA already supports a fiber optic network in the more metropolitan service areas within their boundaries.
Many RVBA members are committed to expanding the current cabled network across the region. “When you partner with the RVBA, you’re bringing fiber to your home. You’re also helping us reach other homes we couldn’t reach otherwise,” stated enthusiastic RVBA spokesperson Jennifer Eddy.
However, competition could come to the valley in the form of wireless 5G connectivity. RVBA President and CEO Frank Smith downplayed the competitive element and spoke of 5G signals and fiber optic delivery working together rather than in opposition to each other. “We’re changing the infrastructure,” he stated, “Allowing us to differentiate ourselves across the region and across the country.”
Broadband access in any form is one thing that all parties do agree upon. Following the example set by Fort Collins, Colorado, the RVBA looks to address connectivity on a local level. The project has caught the attention of some larger companies looking to get in on the action. First to the plate is telecom bigwig Shentel, which plans to petition the Virginia community to bring in its cable network franchise and expand to build its own internet network.
Smith, expressing the opportunities available, spoke of broadband outreach as, “an economic development engine, [to] drive competition, bring more choice in … but also to serve the geographically and economically underserved.”