WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) and Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (VA-07) today co-hosted a Conversation on Rural Broadband with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, local officials, community leaders, and broadband advocates to discuss federal solutions to barriers expanding broadband access to unserved areas. Held at Prince George Central Wellness Center in central Virginia, the roundtable was moderated by Jeffrey Stoke, Deputy Administrator of Prince George County, and included leaders from the Prince George Electric Cooperative, VCTA The Broadband Association of Virginia and the Office of the Governor of Virginia.
A member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (E&C), Congressman McEachin last week led 22 of his committee colleagues in issuing a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai outlining their concerns that last-minute language changes to the commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Order might inadvertently undermine the ability of states, including Virginia, to effectively provide their residents with accessible, reliable broadband infrastructure. Building on that work, today’s roundtable discussion, attended by bipartisan E&C staff, centered the critical importance of access to high-speed internet and provided participants with the opportunity to voice their concerns and connect on solutions to mitigate communities’ lack of access.
“The problems we face in Washington working to ensure every community has access to the high-speed internet needed to grow small businesses, create good-paying jobs, and promote digital equity are complex and cannot be tackled successfully in silos,” said McEachin. “Today’s conversation with rural broadband experts and stakeholders from Prince George County proves the power and possibility of solution-building between federal, state, and local government, and offers a successful blueprint for future collaboration to provide broadband to unserved and underserved communities throughout the country.”
“Access to opportunity in America shouldn’t be dictated by zip code. In the digital age, fast and secure internet access is a necessity for Central Virginia families, students, and businesses—but in many of our rural Virginia communities, unreliable high-speed broadband internet drastically limits the scope of opportunities for growth and success,” said Spanberger. “Today’s conversation on rural broadband in Congressman McEachin’s district was an opportunity to put our heads together and discuss how we can expand broadband access here in Central Virginia. I’d like to thank the many local and state officials who joined for today’s conversation, and I’d especially like to thank Commissioner Starks for coming to our region to share the FCC’s perspective on current broadband issues—like the need for strengthened investment in local infrastructure and updated broadband connectivity maps. At a time when infrastructure remains a key topic of conversation on Capitol Hill and within the administration, these community conversations emphasize the importance of keeping up the drumbeat on connecting our rural communities and closing the digital divide.”
Since arriving in the U.S. House, Spanberger has worked to expand high-speed broadband internet access across Central Virginia’s rural communities, including through the work of the FCC. Last year, Spanberger introduced and passed an amendment to improve FCC broadband internet data. In August 2019, Spanberger hosted her 2019 Rural Broadband Summit in Louisa County to hear about how a lack of reliable broadband internet access is impacting families, farmers, first responders, and small business owners across Central Virginia.
“I was pleased to work with my colleague, Congresswoman Spanberger, to bring together federal, state, municipal and industry leaders for this critical conversation on rural broadband” added McEachin. “Too frequently, constituents across the country struggle to ensure their voice is heard and their needs are addressed in Washington, and at the same time, Washington acts without engaging with impacted communities. Facilitating connections is where we do our best work,” McEachin continued. “Today’s roundtable discussion is another example of delivering that access for the people of Virginia’s Fourth District.”