Bill would limit, not expand, internet service

Published 9:17 pm Wednesday, February 1, 2017

To the editor:

As I write this letter there sits a bill in front of the Virginia House of Delegates that is a prime example of what is wrong with our politicians today.

There seems to be no reason for even presenting this bill except to stifle competition for the already-monopolistic cable companies — many of whom have given large donation to the bill’s sponsor, Kathy Byron (R-22nd).

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I am referring to “Virginia Broadband Deployment Act” (HB-2108), which would be more aptly named “30-Year Old Technology is OK, as Long as Monopolies Make Tons of Money Act.”

This bill would prohibit municipalities from creating a public-owned internet utility as long as an existing network already provides 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload speeds to 90 percent of its customers.

This low-speed threshold can be met by outdated DSL lines, and anyone stuck on this old technology knows these speeds are unacceptable for anyone who intends to do business, not to mention anyone who streams video for entertainment, education or to talk with loved ones.

This bill is the technical equivalent of saying your city cannot build a highway because there is already a dirt road. If the state government were to pass a bill so brazenly called “Virginia Broadband Deployment Act” it should actually deploy true broadband (defined by the Federal Communications Commission as 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload) or even Gigabit fiber service to Virginians as a public utility similar to power and water.

Why would the state want to limit the roll-out of internet services in municipalities?

Chattanooga, Tenn., is a prime example of how treating the internet as a utility provided by the government can help businesses thrive, while providing 1 Gigabit (1,000 megabits) per second for only $70 a month. Compare this to my home’s $50 monthly Verizon bill for 1/20th of the speed.

Not to mention that developing its fiber-optic system has translated into more than $865 million in economic growth for the city.

Outlawing competition of internet service providers will limit Virginians’ access to information. If we want to help all Virginians keep up with the competition, we need to offer the best internet service we can.

Kevin Bojarski