RICHMOND, Va. (WJHL) – A bill that could widely increase access to broadband internet service in rural parts of Virginia has cleared all hurdles in the state Senate.

A release from the Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware Association of Broadband Cooperatives (VMDABC) states Senate Bill 1029 passed the Virginia Senate with bipartisan support.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. William Stanley Jr. (R-Glade Hill), would allow broadband service providers to cross railroads during construction as long as doing so does not interfere with the railroad company’s operations or present any danger to passengers.

As written, the bill would require broadband providers to notify railroad companies ahead of conducting such work. The provider would also have to pay a fee of $750 per railroad crossing during construction.

SB 1029 also states that a railroad company can petition the State Corporation Commission if it believes that broadband lines crossing the railroad would create a danger or cause undue hardship for the company.

The bill’s text states that if a broadband line seeks to cross an abandoned portion of railroad tracks, no fee would be required and a railroad company could not petition the state to deny such a crossing.

The bill passed on the Senate floor with 32 in favor, three against and three absent.

A similar bill in the Virginia House of Delegates is still in committees as of Tuesday. House Bill 1752 essentially mimics Stanley’s bill, except it would require a $1,500 fee for each crossing.

News Channel 11 reached out to state Sen. Todd Pillion (R-Abingdon), who represents much of rural Southwest Virginia. Pillion provided the following statement on the bill’s passage in the Senate:

“Virginia has committed significant investments to support universal broadband buildout. Passage of this bill will make it easier to achieve that buildout by removing barriers that currently exist related to broadband infrastructure and railroad crossings.” 

Sen. Todd Pillion