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Wireless broadband gets $18.9 mil boost / April 29, 2010
An $18.9 million federal stimulus grant awarded to Mecklenburg-based Buggs Island Telephone Cooperative (BIT) promises to make high-speed broadband access available to every business and residence in 15 counties in south central Virginia including Halifax.

“I think this is probably the most significant project to come to Southside Virginia in my 35 year career here,” said Joyce French, executive director of the Southside Virginia Planning District Commission. “It will touch more businesses, more people, have more impact than any project I’ve been associated with.”

It is projected to create 64 new, permanent jobs when it becomes operational. Most of the jobs will be located in Mecklenburg.

U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) grant on Monday.

“I didn’t sleep any last night,” an ecstatic Mickey Sims said Tuesday.

Sims is general manager of BIT, headquartered in the Bracey community on Lake Gaston.

Fifth District Rep. Tom Perriello, who was instrumental in assisting BIT during the application process, commented: “The Recovery Act was designed to make investments in our future competitiveness. Congratulations to Buggs Island for putting together a project that does exactly that.

“This is a real game changer for economic growth and quality of life in our area,” said Perriello. “Reliable broadband service is the foundation for bringing new jobs and growing our local businesses. It boosts home values and the quality of life in our communities.”

The Virginia Tobacco Commission previously approved a $3.8 million grant that will serve as the required 20 percent local match for the project.

French said the last mile project is expected to make high-speed access available to all users in Southside by April 2013.

It will be substantially completed in the second year, 2012, she said.

French said existing towers will be used for most of the project. Crews will build structures at the base of transmission towers to accommodate switches and other equipment.

The project is intended to offer wireless at speeds of up to 10 Mbps to as many as 100,000 households, 14,800 businesses, and 800 community institutions, according to a press release from BIT.

In addition, the grant will promote broadband adoption by discounting the cost of equipment needed to subscribe at home.

Sims, general manager of BIT, said about 60 percent of the grant funding would be used to assist residential customers with the cost of leasing equipment needed to access the service, as well as other equipment associated with retail service delivery.

A customer-owned rural telephone cooperative, BIT was a successful bidder two years ago in the federal government’s auction of spectrum in the 700 megahertz band. The stimulus grant helps the cooperative extend high-speed wireless to the Virginia service area acquired in the auction.

French said businesses with facilities in Southside and headquarters operations elsewhere will benefit from the availability of fast, affordable service. She said she has worked with companies that have over the years expressed frustration with lack of availability or high cost of high speed connectivity.

The project also could meet the communication needs of residents in rural areas or isolated communities such as Merefield Acres near Clarksville that are difficult to serve. Running cable to these locations is cost prohibitive; topography and vegetation may make satellite service problematic.

The coverage area includes Mecklenburg and Halifax counties. It extends from Amelia County to Halifax and then east to Southampton County, according to a company press release.

In South Hill and other communities where BIT (founded in 1951 as Buggs Island Telephone Cooperative) provides communication service, the company will offer wireless to its retail customers.

Sims said BIT also would open retail stores in South Boston, Farmville, Emporia and Franklin. BIT also may open satellite stores in other communities as needed, while some areas may be served by agents.

“We intend to market to the entire 15 county area,” he said.

In some locations, BIT will be the wholesaler of wireless transmission and other providers will sell service to the end users, French said.

Sims acknowledged that existing service providers who operate on a 900 MHz frequency face a “tough business decision” whether to convert their equipment to 700 to work with BIT or continue operating independently.

BIT also will be collaborating with Mid Atlantic Broadband Cooperative.

MBC, a not-for-profit cooperative headquartered in South Boston, owns many of the towers BIT will use, Sims said.

MBC in February was awarded a $16 million Federal Broadband Stimulus Grant and a $4 million tobacco commission grant to extend its middle mile infrastructure.

It will build 464 miles of new fiber optic routes, bringing an estimated 75 new jobs.

According to MBC, the grant will provide connectivity to 121 schools as well as provide additional access points for MBC members who are private sector telecom providers to extend last mile access to residential and business customers.

BIT is member of MBC, as are several smaller local providers in Mecklenburg County.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided a total of $7.2 billion to NTIA and the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to fund projects that will expand access to and adoption of broadband services.

NTIA received more than 1,800 applications proposing projects totaling nearly $19 billion during the first BTOP funding round and awarded grants on a rolling basis.

Monday’s announcement marks the final grant awards from the first round of BTOP applications. NTIA awarded a total of 82 BTOP grants worth $1.2 billion that will expand broadband access and adoption through projects in a majority of states and territories.

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Make sure it comes to 23974-2932. The out skirts of Victoria va.


When will they start hiring for the sixty four positions? I have friends who have passed the course offered at SVCC in conjunction with BIT and passed with flying colors, we're promised a job and have not heard anything yet. No one has been hired yet. What is going on?


Finally!! Been dying out here pay very high satellite internet prices for limited bandwidth.


Please help us on Piney Ridge Road in Pamplin. Please, we Need your High speed internet.
Will we need a phone line?

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