Virginia lawmakers have taken steps to address geographic disparities in broadband coverage by passing a bill that will give the state’s two largest electric utilities, Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power, the green light to provide broadband internet service to unserved areas. HB 2691, sponsored by Del. Israel O’Quinn, R-Bristol, will create a pilot program that allows the electric utilities to expand “middle mile” broadband coverage — the infrastructure that connects the networks and core routers on the internet to local internet service providers that serve businesses and consumers directly. The difference in internet services between urban and rural communities in Virginia is stark: Only 53 percent of rural Virginians have access to broadband internet. Urban areas have far better coverage — 96 percent, according to a 2016 study by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.