Commerce Awards Recovery Act Broadband Expansion Grants Totaling More than $20 Million for Virginia

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 
February 08, 2010
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Commerce Department, Office of Public Affairs, 202-482-4883
 

Commerce Awards Recovery Act Broadband Expansion Grants Totaling More than $20 Million for Virginia

White House Chief Technology Office, NTIA Administrator Larry Strickling, Sens. Webb and Warner, and Reps. Boucher and Perriello come together to announce awards

The Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today announced two grants totaling more than $21.5 million to expand broadband Internet infrastructure in Virginia. Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, NTIA's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) provides grants to support the deployment of broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas, enhance and expand public computer centers, and encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service. These investments will help bridge the technological divide, boost economic growth and create jobs.

"By expanding broadband Internet access in unserved and underserved parts of Virginia, we can bring new opportunities for jobs, innovation, and economic growth to these communities," Chopra said. "The grants announced today will also help improve education in rural parts of the state, facilitate scientific and medical research at Virginia universities, and lay the groundwork for more consumers to ultimately get affordable broadband service where they live."

The two grants announced today will add 575 miles of new high-speed Internet infrastructure in southern Virginia. The grants were announced during a press conference call with White House Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, NTIA Administrator Larry Strickling, U.S. Sens. Jim Webb and Mark Warner, and U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello.

"These projects are valuable in terms of attracting new businesses, allowing medical professionals to give better care, and giving tens of thousands of local residents access to the Internet,"Webb said. "Southside and Southwest Virginia have been hit hard by the economic downturn. It is our duty to provide this part of the Commonwealth with a fair shot at the future. I have consistently fought for the expansion of high-speed Internet in Virginia's rural areas, and I am pleased the American Recovery and Recovery Act prioritized this funding."

"Building-out the broadband capacity in Southwest and Southside Virginia is a critical piece of our effort to expand economic and educational opportunities in rural parts of our state," Warner said. "This investment will create enormous educational opportunities for young people and open new markets to our existing businesses and entrepreneurs that will add to the long-term economic competitiveness of these communities."

Further information about the two grants announced for Virginia today:

Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative: $16 million infrastructure grant with an additional $4 million in applicant-provided matching funds to add 465 miles of new fiber that will directly connect 121 K-12 schools in southern Virginia to an existing 800-mile, fiber, high-speed network. By improving connection speeds for these schools from 1.5 Mbps to at least10 Mbps, these new fiber connections will allow the schools, many in isolated areas, to take advantage of distance learning and virtual classroom opportunities. In addition, the expanded fiber network will spur affordable broadband service to local consumers by enabling more than 30 Internet service providers to connect to the project's open network.

Virginia Tech Foundation, Inc.: $5.5 million infrastructure grant with an additional $1.4 million in applicant-provided matching funds to add 110 miles of open access, fiber-optic network between Blacksburg and Bedford City – an existing network operated by the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative. The resulting network will cross six counties in Virginia's Appalachian region, and provide direct, high-speed connections to Virginia Tech's main campus in Blacksburg and the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine in Roanoke, enhancing the ability for both institutions to collaborate on cutting-edge medical and other scientific research with institutions in the United States and abroad.

"This is a huge boost for Southside Virginia, benefiting our kids' educational success in the short term and building our region's long-term competitive advantage for the 21st century, Perriello said. "I'm thrilled these stimulus funds will expand Internet access for consumers in our small towns and rural communities, giving our workforce the competitive edge they deserve."

NTIA received more than 1,800 applications during the first BTOP funding round and is currently awarding grants on a rolling basis. Including today's announcement, NTIA has now awarded 19 grants totaling approximately $228 million under the program. In addition, NTIA has awarded $97 million in mapping and planning grants to 51 states and territories. A second round of BTOP applications will be accepted through March 15, 2010.

Rep. Rick Boucher, who represents communities benefiting from the awards announced today said, "These federal funds will provide many more residents in the Ninth Congressional District with access to high-speed Internet services. Just as first canals, then railroads and then highways were major arteries of commerce in earlier eras, in the 21st Century, access to broadband will be a defining feature of economic success for rural communities. Step by positive step, our expanding broadband infrastructure is assuring that Southwest Virginia's communities will be at the center of economic opportunity and these federal funds will help us achieve this goal."

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided a total of $7.2 billion to NTIA and RUS to fund projects that will expand access to and adoption of broadband services. Of that funding, NTIA will utilize $4.7 billion for grants to deploy broadband infrastructure, expand public computer center capacity, and encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service. RUS will use $2.5 billion in budget authority to support grants and loans to facilitate broadband deployment in primarily rural communities. NTIA plans to announce all grant awards by September 30, 2010.