Virginia Expert Tech Talk With Highland Economic Development Authority
Monterey, Va – Highland county’s economic development authority is working on a county technology plan. In order to move that process along, the EDA organized a special meeting between county leaders and Karen Jackson. Jackson is the Vice-President for Broadband programs at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology and is also on the Governor’s staff as Deputy Secretary for Technology.
Highland county officials attending the meeting included those from the EDA technology committee, Board of Supervisors, School Board, Chamber of Commerce, [Montery] Town Council as well as Phil Munchel, Director of the Highland Telephone cooperative and Craig Smith, CEO of MGW Telephone company. Ms. Jackson is familiar with Highland county having visited here several years ago when the county was starting to plan its technology future.
Jackson says urban areas of Virginia may have better broadband and internet access, but rural areas often have better quality of life. She says the challenge is to find a level playing field between the two. Ms. Jackson encourages county officials to look at the broad picture while focusing on the applications that residents want to use on their computers.
“How do we make sure that everybody in Virginia has the infrastructure they need affordably, accessibly, to support the activities that are important to the citizens” says Jackson. “It’s not about having infrastructure – infrastructure in the ground is useless unless you use it. The value you derive from infrastructure is what goes across it…so you really come up with a very holistic model.”
One of the problems brought up by Phil Munchel of Highland telephone is that the national broadband plan currently suggests that rural areas only need 4 megabit speeds while urban areas should have 100 megabit speeds. That is coupled with plans to take away some of the current federal subsidies for rural telephone companies. Mr. Munchel asked the EDA to draft a letter to Virginia’s congressional delegation asking that they work to see that the speed difference between urban and rural areas be changed and that the funding for rural telephone companies be continued.
MGW’s Craig Smith will be meeting with some of Virginia’s Congressmen in early June and offered to deliver the letter personally. The EDA members passed a motion to draft a letter with the help of Mr. Munchel and have it ready by early June.
Karen Jackson closed her remarks by suggesting that Highland county’s technology plan needs to address all the stakeholders to see what their internet needs are and then design a plan to reach those goals.