Feinman said the Northam administration does not have a position on the issue.
Representatives from the telecommunications industry were comfortable with the pilot program. Ray Lamura, who sits on the council and is president of the Virginia Cable Telecommunications Association, said VATI should continue to prioritize unserved areas. The association is the lobbying arm of telecommunication companies like Cox, Comcast and Shentel.
“The priority of the unserved is truly critical and has been the focus of what VATI has been about and what the legislature is about and what we’re trying to achieve as a commonwealth to get all connected,” Lamura said.
This means the grant money can’t be used for projects to improve the quality of existing internet services. That limits the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority, whose territory doesn’t include a lot of unserved areas.
Michael McEvoy, chairman of the Roanoke authority’s board of directors, said his wife is a teacher, and she tells him about students in the city struggling to learn because they have slow internet or their family can’t afford internet. He said municipal authorities can provide solutions to these problems.
“Why not look at all of the tools that are available, why limit it to just incumbent providers, who, frankly, aren’t doing the job, they haven’t been providing the services, because if they had we wouldn’t be here today talking about the need to fund these projects,” he told the broadband council.
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