The National Telecommunications & Information Administration gave out another $21.5 million in broadband stimulus grants to middle-mile projects last week, this time in Southern Virginia.
They are the latest in $7.2 billion the government is giving out to spur broadband deployment and adoption.
The grants will connect 121 elementary schools and high schools in 12 counties to the Internet in rural areas (58,000 students are expected to be affected), as well as connecting Virginia Tech and Bedford City, crossing six counties in the state’s Appalachian region and connecting the university’s Blacksburg campus with its medical school in Roanoke.
The buildout projects will be high-speed and open to any Internet-service provider. The speed of the backbone service from Blacksburg to Bedford will be between 10 Gigabits per second and 200 Gbps, while the connections to the individual schools will be between 1.5 and 10 Megabits per second, with a potential of as much as 100 Mbps.
Asked during a conference call whether the stimulus program should have had more than the $7.2 billion set aside for broadband, White House chief technology officer Aneesh Chopra defended the allocation, saying that $100 billion was focused on innovation. “We’re very pleased with the mix that focuses on innovation,” he said, pointing out that President Obama had pledged to double R&D technology funding.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the former Virginia governor, said that the projects would create immediate jobs — installing more than 500 miles of fiber — and, more importantly, spur economic activity.
Both grants include participation by the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative (http://www.mbc-va.com), which Warner, a former telecommunications executive, helped launch in 2004, with money from Virginia’s court settlement with tobacco companies, to help link rural communities.