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Southwest Virginia Receives $4.76M for Broadband Infrastructure

August 29, 2003

Seven grants totaling nearly $4.76 million will help Southwest Virginia achieve greater high-speed bandwidth access by enabling deployment of fiber optic cable throughout much of the region. The Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission awarded the grants, including $2.03 million via five grants to Bristol Virginia Utilities (BVU). The balance of the funds was distributed between the Cumberland Plateau and Lenowisco planning district commissions.

The 31-member Virginia Tobacco Commission was created by the 1999 General Assembly to make payments to farmers to compensate for the decline of tobacco quotas and to promote economic growth and development in tobacco-dependent communities.

BVU, a communications services provider, and the two planning district commissions will use their grants to extend broadband further through Washington County, into Russell, Tazewell, Smyth and Wythe Counties, and eventually Grayson County. Broadband loops also will be extended or completed in Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Scott and Wise Counties, and the City of Norton.

Officials are hopeful the proposed infrastructure will lead to a variety of benefits, including: increased business-to-business contracting, more technology-based jobs and electronic commerce opportunities, remote teaching, coordination of inter-governmental activities, telemedicine applications, greater capabilities for new and existing firms to transmit large volume data traffic, and other uses of information technologies.

In addition, the availability of broadband infrastructure is expected to enhance the region's ability to attract high-tech industry and lessen the Digital Divide. Telecommunications services also may become more affordable.

A technology committee that was established to address the critical need for high-speed Internet access throughout rural Virginia reviewed and recommended the proposals for funding. More information on the Virginia Tobacco Commission and the grants awarded is available at http://www.vatobaccocommission.org/.