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Southside cities win national challenge, money for internet connectivity ring

Local council members said the grand prize increased interest in the internet project, and they hope private and federal investment will cover the $48.6 million cost of the connectivity ring and side projects.

NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) — Five Hampton Roads cities are developing a fiber cable ring that is being recognized nationally as the best 'SMART' proposal in the country.

The Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, and Suffolk city governments are working together to become a "digital port," increasing internet speeds and connection through underground fiber cable lines.

At a conference in Ohio, Norfolk City Councilwoman Andria McClellan and Virginia Beach City Councilman Ben Davenport presented the plans for the Hampton Roads project. One that connects trans-Oceanic lines to the fiber lines in Virginia Beach. McClellan said the collaboration of the five cities was key in being designated as the best proposal.

"The fact that we have these trans-Oceanic cables and such a huge concentration of military and federal assets was huge," McClellan said. "As well as the risk associated with sea-level rise and flooding and how we're already addressing that with technology."

McClellan said the grand prize means both private and federal sources are looking to fund the ring and each city's related project. Virginia Beach councilman Ben Davenport said he is optimistic Hampton Roads will receive the full funding of $48.6 million to complete the project. Davenport added that the area's fiber cable connection would rival the 'gold standard' of Raleigh-Durham.

"We will be able to say that we have the exact same competitive infrastructure that they have in that region, and we believe that will help our research and development grow," Davenport said.

Davenport said the fiber cable lines will connect to local universities, school, and municipal buildings. McClellan said the ring will provide fast and cheaper internet to customers throughout Hampton Roads as well.

"What we're doing is building a highway through this regional connectivity ring that will allow small to mid-size internet companies to drive their trucks on that highway and provide that service to our citizens," she said.

McClellan called the national award an endorsement of what Hampton Roads has to offer. With funding, the two council members believe the project could be completed within the next 3 years and praised the collaboration of the five city governments and different city departments involved.

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