RD490 - Broadband Activities in the Commonwealth: An Annual Status Report – November 2016

Executive Summary:
Legislative Mandate

§ 2.2-225 (Secretary of Technology) Monitor the trends in the availability and deployment of and access to broadband communications services, which include, but are not limited to, competitively priced, high-speed data services and internet access services of general application, throughout the Commonwealth and advancements in communications technology for deployment potential. The Secretary shall report annually by December 1 to the Governor and General Assembly on those trends.

§ 2.2-2699.4. (Broadband Advisory Council) The Council shall have duty to annually report to the Governor and the Joint Commission on Technology and Science on the progress towards the goal of universal access for businesses and on the assessment of Commonwealth broadband infrastructure investments and utilization of Council-supported resources to promote broadband access.

Executive Summary

The Center for Innovative Technology’s (CIT) Broadband service line remains the only resource in Virginia that is solely focused on expanding broadband access and adoption throughout the Commonwealth. In 2016, CIT and its partners, Virginia Tech’s Center for Geospatial Information Technology (CGIT) and Virginia Information Technology Agency’s (VITA) Virginia Geographic Information Network (VGIN) continued to work towards Governor McAuliffe’s goal of ubiquitous, affordable broadband access and ensuring its citizens and localities are realizing the benefits broadband brings.

CIT is committed to driving broadband expansion at the local level. Through use of its NASCIO award-nominated methodology, in 2016 CIT provided direct assistance to many localities, some of which are considered the most unserved in the Commonwealth. As a result of the assistance, these localities are better positioned to pursue broadband solutions and have either established public-private partnerships or are on the path to doing so in the months ahead. There are, however, many unserved and underserved localities in the Commonwealth that also need to define their broadband goals and set their path to improved broadband by leveraging CIT's assistance and a proven methodology.

In May Governor McAuliffe announced the RUOnlineVA campaign – a statewide, crowdsourcing initiative designed to identify, document and analyze Virginia's areas of greatest "unmet" broadband demand. RUOnlineVA, led by CIT, was a key component of the Governor’s 2016 strategy to increase connectivity throughout the Commonwealth. The survey received more than 15,000 responses and received strong support from a number of agencies, associations, and counties.

Libraries are increasingly becoming an integral part of community connectivity by providing Internet access as well as technology training and workforce development. Working closely with the Library of Virginia and Virginia Tech’s Center for Geospatial Information Technology (CGIT), CIT conducted the second annual Library Broadband Assessment. This year’s assessment was more comprehensive and provided greater insight into how much libraries in the Commonwealth are paying for broadband and the quality of service they’re receiving. In addition to better understanding Virginia library’s connectivity and usage, the assessment helps to ensure that libraries are fully leveraging resources available to them.

The Virginia Broadband map continually evolves to consume available federal data to present broadband availability, demand and assets. The latest edition of the map is contained within Virginia’s Integrated Broadband Planning and Analysis Toolbox (IBTX) and allows users to view RUOnlineVA data, population density, vertical assets, and other themes all in comparison to reported broadband coverage. The new features were added to facilitate improved broadband assessment and planning and expedite expansions and utilization to support the New Virginia Economy.

The Virginia broadband team has made great strides in 2016 to improve broadband in the Commonwealth. This report highlights Virginia’s current broadband environment and the initiatives and activities that have occurred in the past year. This report also provides recommendations that will help to improve broadband access and adoption in the Commonwealth.