Bristol Virginia Utilities receives $3.5 million for broadband construction

NOVEMBER 2, 2009 -- Bristol Virginia Utilities (BVU) was awarded $3.5 million in grant funding last week from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission to expand its broadband infrastructure along Virginia’s Interstate 81 to benefit Southwest and Southside Virginia.

Approved at an October 29 commission meeting, BVU will use the funds to construct an additional 49 miles of its OptiNet fiber-optic backbone from Abingdon up I-81 to Virginia Route 16 from Marion into Grayson County, linking up with Citizens Telephone. When complete, the route will connect existing facilities owned by Citizens Telephone in Independence, VA, to BVU’s facilities in Marion and west along the Virginia Route 11 corridor.

The extended network will also create a second connection between BVU and Mid Atlantic Broadband, which carries communications traffic to Northern Virginia. The more secure, diverse network will enable BVU to meet the growing demand of bandwidth needs by businesses and commercial customers, the carrier says.

“The project supports the technology goals of the Virginia Tobacco Commission and strengthens a critical path between our state’s Southwest and Southside regions,” said Virginia Sen. William C. Wampler, Jr., a commission member. “We are grateful for BVU’s leadership and the broadband partnerships that continue to evolve as we attempt to ‘bridge the digital divide’ between our communities.”

Virginia Del. Terry Kilgore (R-Gate City), who chairs the Tobacco Commission’s Southwest Virginia Economic Committee, called the project “a final critical component” to the massive communications network that has been pursued in Southwest Virginia since the mid-1990s.

“The broadband expansion fortifies the existing fiber route between BVU and Citizens as well as giving our area a redundant fiber-optic line to Northern Virginia, where bandwidth needs are increasing all the time. It is necessary to our region’s future and the survivability of our existing telecom network,” he noted.

BVU OptiNet is recognized as the first municipal broadband network in the United States to provide triple-play services over an all-fiber-optic network. OptiNet was launched in Bristol Virginia in 2003 and has since grown to encompass more than 850 miles across eight counties in Southwest Virginia.

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