Council learns how internet hub collaboration will benefit city

Published 7:39 pm Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

City Council got details of a new regional Global Internet Hub initiative the city has invested in for both the Richmond and Hampton Roads regions.

During its Wednesday, Aug. 16 meeting, Council hear from RVA757 Connects, a non-profit organization that supports the economic success of the regions, which is also known as the I-64 Innovation corridor. The group is leading this effort.

The organization’s top priority is noted to “accelerate the status of the I-65 Innovation Corridor as an emerging GIH into a world-class interconnection point” and drive future economic growth for both Richmond and Hampton Roads.

Email newsletter signup

RVA757 Connects President and Chief Executive Officer John Martin thanked the Council for its investment in the fiber network ring. He explained the collaborative effort between Hampton Roads and Richmond CEOs is an “intentional collaboration” instead of competition between metro areas aimed to drive scale and economic success for both localities.

“There are about 75 of us and we’ve gotten together over the last 10 years to work on projects, but about four years ago, we became a 501(c)(3) because we noticed around the country a new model emerging where cities that are next to each other don’t compete, but collaborate and coordinate,” Martin said. “You think about the Silicon Valley. You think about the Research Triangle and Boston Route 128. These were all models that now have become best practices. They are basically turning their regions into mega-regions by working together.”

RVA757 Connects focuses on important initiatives to drive the economy. He said its main priorities include advocating for the I-64 Innovation Corridor widening from Richmond to Hampton Roads, helping the corridor become a global internet hub, providing support for bike-walk trails in the mega-region and increasing passenger rail service. Likewise, Martin pointed to supporting director and member initiatives such as Dominion Energy’s offshore project and advancing the mega-region’s brand.

Explaining the strategic plan for the global internet hub, he pointed to its benefits. These include attracting IT/tech workers and industries in need of talent, providing the most advanced digital platform to support operations, faster, more efficient and possibly lower cost residential and business service. Other benefits such as supporting “smart city” development, equity to help underserved communities and future proofing a community were mentioned. 

“All of this is to say, you’ve gotta future proof your city and your region and your mega-region,” Martin said. “We’ve got to be able to compete on an international scale, so being a global internet hub gives us that runway and that capacity.”

The group’s “Global Internet Hub Plan” was created by 62 leaders with members of the military, higher education, economic development and a variety of other areas meeting together for eight times.

They came up with 10 core strategies:

  • Establish a GIH industry council
  • Get I-64 Corridor’s cities and counties global internet hub-ready
  • Increase international awareness of I-64 Corridor among digital infrastructure investors
  • Support growth of robust local internet networks
  • Pitch subsea cable investors on Virginia landings
  • Prepare data center sites
  • Encourage the growth of IXs and IXPs (Internet Exchanges and Internet Exchange Points)
  • Support fiber network ring
  • Promote Dominion Energy’s ability to provide power.
  • Advance tech talent pipeline

Following the presentation, Councilman Roger Fawcett thanked Martin for the presentation, calling it “always enlightening” to hear ways to move forward regarding important technology for the region.

“This is all good that brings us together and ties us between Richmond and Hampton Roads. The pipe coming across from overseas is a real big deal coming in from Virginia Beach. This is something that I think is going to be fantastic for the more younger generation coming up and coming in the next few years,” Fawcett said. “We’ll continue to probably hear these things as it moves forward, but it looks like everything that I see here is a win-win for everybody regardless of where you’re at, no matter what.”

Vice Mayor Lue Ward asked how RVA757 Connects will get schools involved with the organization.

Martin said the council’s investment in the fiber network ring will affect schools “in a good way.”

“You are going to make it possible to have some of the major assets hyper wired and to have faster access. You’re also going to make it with the network ring, you’re going to have that last mile be a lot less expensive to make sure every neighborhood has internet service, so it’s going to support people in their homes doing their homework and researching online at home,” Martin said. “Being able to build out the digital infrastructure and to have it be faster and relatively less costly is going to benefit everybody.”

Mayor Michael D. Duman asked if Martin could provide insight into the funding process if the plan goes into fruition.

Martin referred to the components of an internet hub.  

“Those components, a lot of it is private sector invested. Those subcity cables are owned by FaceBook and Amazon. They’re the guys that are primarily behind putting those subcity cables together,” Martin said. “What we’re trying to do is make sure people know that we’re open for business and to show the collaboration that’s going on here and to inventory the assets into talking to people like you: city council’s and county governments to let them be up to speed so they can make decisions faster. Because in this industry, decisions go like (snap) this.”

Duman thanked Martin for his presentation. 

“I am eager to see how this progresses,” he said.

Martin thanked Duman and City Council for making the long-term decision.

“This is something that you focused incredibly well on the long term in investing in that ring,” Martin said. “So this is an example you should point to people to say ‘We are thinking about your grandkids. This is what we did as Suffolk.’ So thank you very much.”

More information on the project is available at