Towards a connected commonwealth
The roles of counties in broadband deployment in Virginia
Keywords:Broadband, Rural Broadband, Digital Divide, Counties, Virginia
This paper explores the role of counties in the deployment of high-speed internet (“broadband”) networks in the United States. Counties play crucial roles in local governance, but have been absent from discussions of broadband policy, planning and deployment by both lawmakers and scholars. Rectifying this, this paper reports the results of a survey of counties in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Using thematic coding analysis, themes from our survey include (1) mapping and the ongoing issue of identifying un- and under-connected areas; (2) funding and the use of public money; (3) strategic partnerships with electric cooperatives, investor-owned ISPs, and other counties and (4) urban bias. Based on these themes, we argue that countries play three crucial, but heretofore neglected, roles in broadband deployment: funder, partner, and mobilizer. Moreover, we argue that counties are eager for greater responsibility and authority over deployment. This paper concludes with recommendations for how Virginia can amplify the roles and responsibilities of counties in broadband deployment.