The National Telecommunications & Information Administration has given out $21.5 million in broadband stimulus grants to middle mile projects in Southern Virginia.
The grants will tie 121 elementary and high schools in 12 counties to the Internet in rural areas (58,000 students are expected to be affected), as well as linking Virginia Tech University and Bedford City, crossing six counties in the state's Appalachian region and connecting the Blacksburg campus with the University's medical school in Roanoke.
The projects will be high-speed and open to any ISP to build out to the community. 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 mpbs and 10 mbps, 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 the president had pledged to double R&D technology funding.
Virginia Senator and former governor Mark Warner said that the projects would create immediate jobs -- installing more than 500 miles of fiber -- but more importantly spur economic activity.
Both grants include participation by the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative, which Warner, a former
telecommunications executive, helped launch in 2004, with money from the state's tobacco settlement, to help link rural communities.