With limited control, Virginia still tries to move the needle on broadband

On the latest episode of StateScoop’s Priorities podcast, Virginia’s secretary of technology highlights broadband efforts and lays out her vision for its future in the Commonwealth.

Jake Williams
Jake Williams Associate Publisher & Director of Strategic Initiatives

Jake Williams is currently the Associate Publisher & Director of Strategic Initiatives for StateScoop, based in Washington, D.C., where h...

In Virginia, broadband is an area where the state has little to no control — but that doesn’t stop state Secretary of Technology Karen Jackson from trying.

“The biggest challenge [with broadband] is that it’s one of those areas where we have little to no control,” Jackson says on the latest episode of StateScoop’s Priorities podcast. “Broadband is an unregulated service, so the ability to force or coerce or try to drive deployment in an environment that is very much driven by stakeholders, shareholders and the market is a very daunting task.”

In response, Jackson and her team look to improve broadband coverage however it can — through partnerships, and — in some cases — just getting out of the way.

“We’ve done some work with our schools to look at cooperative buying so each one is not going out on their own, and you can do it more in a consolidated fashion and get some benefits of an economy of scale,” Jackson says. “We’re resorting to trying to be as creative as possible, take down barriers where we can, try to get out of deployments where we can and make our assets available.”

Jackson says the state government evaluates its own infrastructure — buildings, towers and the like, to make sure that it can be a facilitator between the private sector broadband industry and the state’s residents who need service.

“All of these are things we’re having to look at because the traditional assumption that the market will eventually get there just isn’t going to hold when the places that are left to be connected are truly the farthest out, the hardest to reach and the most expensive to reach,” Jackson says.

On this podcast:

  • Karen Jackson, secretary of technology, Virginia
  • Jake Williams, associate publisher and director of strategic initiatives, StateScoop

Things to listen for:

  • Virginia’s broadband initiative dates back to the late 2000s. Since then, the state has been trying legislative and executive initiatives to bring broadband to all of its citizenss. 
  • Through the state’s Center for Innovative Technology, the Commonwealth has invested in building a team to unite communities and industry around getting access to broadband. The CIT program helps companies and communities with broadband projects from the visioning process to the execution of projects.
  • Broadband is no longer a luxury, Jackson says. Instead, government and industry needs to start treating it like a utility.
  • Under Governor-elect Ralph Northam’s administration, Jackson expects the state’s broadband work to continue.
  • The state’s tobacco commission has released a request for proposal for a $10 million build out of broadband service along the south side of the state.

Priorities is StateScoop’s regular podcast that examines the leading strategies, technologies and challenges that state CIOs expect to face this year.

In addition to listening to Priorities on StateScoop.com, you can now subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and have episodes delivered directly to your podcasts app on your smartphone when they are released.

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