Bedrosian opposes county funding for fiber network

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ROANOKE CO., Va. (WDBJ7) Local leaders are preparing for the "lighting" ceremony that will bring a new fiber optic network online in the Roanoke Valley.

But as Roanoke County considers spending $3.4 million to extend the network, Supervisor Al Bedrosian is speaking out against the project.

Crews have been hard at work, laying 50 miles of fiber conduit in the Roanoke Valley. Other partners in the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority include the city of Roanoke, Salem and Botetourt County.

The open access fiber-optic broadband network will serve schools, government and businesses. And local leaders say it will be a powerful tool for economic development.

But the Hollins Supervisor isn't convinced it's a good investment.

Bedrosian held a news conference outside the Roanoke County Administration Center Thursday afternoon. He said the county shouldn't be funding a service that will compete with local broadband providers.

"I would love to see other people jump into this marketplace if they think it's profitable and they can do it, jump in use their own money," Bedrosian told WDBJ7, "but they're using my money. I'm being forced and every citizen in Roanoke County is being forced to subsidize them."

We were unable to arrange an interview with the CEO of the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority Thursday.

Roanoke County provided a written statement:

"The County Administrator continues to believe that the project to partner with the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority for the installation of fiber in the County is important for the future economic growth of the County. Of course, the recommendation of the Administrator on this project, like all budget recommendations, must be reviewed and debated by the Board of Supervisors who must determine how our fiscal resources are best used."

"The proposed Broadband project is intended to provide greater opportunity for potential broadband service providers to enter the Roanoke market. It is important to note that this effort will not result in the County or the RVBA being a direct provider of Broadband services. Instead it will provide a much needed expansion of the data infrastructure in the County and position us to effectively compete with other regions of the country for economic growth and development."

Ultimately, the supervisors will decide if the county spends the money, and Supervisors Chairman Jason Peters said he's leaning toward making the investment.

In a telephone conversation with WDBJ7 Thursday afternoon, he said investments are necessary if the county is serious about economic development.

But Peters also said he still wants to talk with local broadband providers and local businesses before the supervisors take a final vote on the budget.