Delegate Lynwood W. Lewis , Jr. sent the following press release to Chincoteague Reports regarding funding for the deployment of broadband communications technology on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Broadband technology is critical to the future economic development of the Eastern Shore and thus a vital topic in the civic affairs of Chincoteague.
$1.6 Million Approved for Broadband Site and Engineering Plans
ACCOMAC – Delegate Lynwood W. Lewis , Jr. announced today the House and Senate budget conferees agreed late Friday evening include $1.6 million for broadband site work and engineering plans. The budget passed the House on Saturday and is now waiting for Governor Kaine’s signature. The Governor initially proposed the $1.6 million.
“This is a great victory for the citizens of the Eastern Shore ,” said Lewis. “Governor Kaine put these funds in his budget to complete the work required and build on the $1.4 million appropriation we received in 2005-06. The amendment was taken out by the House Appropriations Committee, but our efforts were ultimately successful and the conferees included the funding.”
Lewis said that the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative and the engineering firm of Dewberry and Davis were already at work “with someone literally walking the proposed route from Wallops Island south with a GPS system looking at every obstacle, right of way, soil formation and such.” DHCD commenced the work at Wallops according to Lewis, as “they wanted to show NASA, the Navy, defense, educational institutions and space contractors that they were serious about leveling the playing field and providing the technology necessary for them o do business. Our neighbors in Maryland have a very aggressive broadband deployment program underway funded in large part by the federal government,” Lewis said. “Maryland wants to attract and keep industry on their Eastern Shore and we must do the same to compete. 62% of NASA’s 1800 employees live in Virginia . They need broadband to do their jobs as do many other employees and companies.”
The site and engineering work will eventually link the Shore and Northern Neck to Emporia , Virginia , where the pipe from far Southwest Virginia and Southside ends. Southwest and Southside Virginia received more than $30 million dollars from the Tobacco Commission for their broadband deployment and also an EDA (Economic Development Authority) grant for $6 million from the federal government which required matching funds. “The Eastern Shore and Northern Neck did not farm tobacco and thus are ineligible for funds from the Commission. We must rely on the state and federal government to finance our broadband, as the private sector will simply not invest the money necessary in rural areas. This technology is analogous to rural electrification in the 1940’s. It is simply something we must have to remain economically viable, compete for jobs, and provide educational opportunities, enhanced medical care, and the like.”
“We had bipartisan support for this appropriation, and I owe a great deal of thanks to the budget conferees for including this request,” Lewis said. “I also want to thank the three Eastern Shore Chambers, County Managers and Boards of Supervisors, the Community College, NASA, the Navy, Northrop Grumman and many others for writing the key legislators to let them know how much we need this technology. We also need a special thank you to Governor Kaine and his Cabinet Secretaries who continued to push for funding for this project,” Lewis said.
Delegate Lewis also noted that the Governor has asked the Virginia Congressional Delegation to support federal funding for this project. “Each year, the Governor meets with the Congressional Delegation in Richmond to outline his federal priorities,” Lewis said. “”This broadband project has been estimated to cost $16 million dollars. We are very fortunate to have a Governor and Congressional Delegation that understands how this technology can reduce economic disparity by allowing us to compete for good paying jobs with anyone else in the country or world for that matter: Lewis noted. Senators Warner, Webb, Representatives Drake, and Davis have been asked by the Governor to include this in their federal funding priorities, “and so far the response from these Members has been positive. They also have to compete with funding requests nationally and internationally” Lewis continued, “I know they will do all they can on our behalf. They have my complete support and I will be going this spring with a small group from the Eastern Shore to meet with them personally and encourage their support for federal funding for this project.”