City Council to Explore Creating Broadband Internet Authority

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

As part of its long-term effort to promote Virginia Beach as a hub of biomedical research, the City Council will explore creating a broadband internet authority – alone or as part of a regional group.


The City Council approved a resolution yesterday directing city staff to study the idea, which could spread ultra-high-speed Internet throughout much of Virginia Beach. The resolution was introduced by Councilman Ben Davenport.


“Expanding access to ultra-high-speed Internet service in Virginia Beach would be a powerful incentive for new businesses here, especially in the expanding biomedical field,” said Warren Harris, director of the city’s Economic Development Department. “This would meet the city’s 2040 Vision for enhanced connectivity, as well as reduce the digital divide in our community.”


Matthew Arvay, the city’s chief information officer, added, “Cities nationwide are taking a look at their broadband services, not because it’s a luxury but because it has become a necessity in today’s technology-rich and ever-changing world.”


The Virginia Beach City Council has five long-term strategic goals for the city. The first is to grow the local economy. At its annual goal-setting retreat last month, the City Council set seven top priorities for 2015. The first is to develop biomedical research and health care businesses in Virginia Beach.


“This effort will make Virginia Beach a true competitor for technology-based businesses,” Davenport said. “The push for biomedical research cannot succeed without ultra-high-speed Internet connections. This is the first step toward that goal.”


Last year, in his annual State of the City address, Mayor Will Sessoms laid out four ambitious initiatives. One is to establish Virginia Beach “as a destination for groundbreaking research and development, and headquarters of some of the world’s leading innovators in healthcare, bio-technology, pharmaceutical development and healthcare delivery systems.”


Last month, a task force made recommendations on the best way to develop biomedical industries in Virginia Beach.  One of its action items is enhancing regional broadband connectivity, “allowing researchers to perform more in-depth analysis in fields including bioinformatics and data analytics.”


Later this year, the City Council will consider transferring 155 acres of city-owned property on Princess Anne Road, in Princess Anne Commons, to create a bio-related business park. Expanding ultra-high-speed Internet to the park is a high priority.


The city and school division already have more than 200 miles of high-speed Internet fiber connecting many government buildings, including police stations, fire stations, libraries, recreation center and Human Services facilities.


“The city’s network is not fully maximized,” Arvay said. “This study could lay the groundwork for leveraging that network to create a citywide system, which would help local businesses and underserved areas in Virginia Beach.”


The City Council resolution authorizes City Manager James Spore and his staff to explore the creation of a Virginia Beach and/or Southside Regional Broadband Authority to pursue this goal.


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