Northam announces broadband expansion, faces pipeline opponents

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FRANKLIN CO., Va. (WDBJ7) Governor Ralph Northam visited Franklin County to announce a broadband expansion that will bring service to more homes and businesses there.

He also encountered a protest by opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

The broadband announcement Thursday morning brought Northam to the Summit View Business Park, one of the locations in Franklin county that will get broadband service because of the public-private partnership.

A grant from the tobacco commission and investment by Shentel will provide service to more than 600 homes and 100 other customers.

"You know Virginia is doing well. Our unemployment rate is very low right now. We're bringing in a lot of capital investment, but we've got to do everything we can to lift up rural Virginia," Northam said. "And the one thing I hear every day is we need universal broadband."

The business park is also a location where Roanoke Gas will tap into the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a fact not lost on the pipeline opponents who gathered within sight of the tent where the Governor made the broadband announcement.

They renewed their call for a stop work order on the controversial project.

Eric Anspaugh is Chair of the group Preserve Franklin.

"We are seeing the results of the degradation and devastation taking place," he told WDBJ7, "plus we don't know what this pipeline's going to do in the future."

Anne Way Bernard is a landowner whose property lies in the path of the pipeline.

"I just want to ask him, 'what planet are your children going to be living on?"

Northam said he believes the state has taken a responsible approach.

"And if you look at projects like the ones here at this industrial park," Northam said, "one of the things that we need is energy. and energy comes from a lot of different sources, one of which is natural gas."

Northam said he's tried to be fair, and follow the law. And he said that's what the state has done.

Pipeline opponents who protested his visit on Thursday said their fight will continue.