Will this bring broadband to my residential neighborhood?
Possibly; however this project is a middle mile project with open-access to service providers and is not a last mile project. The grant that was awarded to Citizens is a Comprehensive Community Infrastructure (CCI) grant. The purpose of the grant is to build middle mile fiber to Community Anchor Institutions (CAI’s): schools, libraries, higher education, medical, and emergency services.
To give you a frame of reference, a fiber network is similar to a road system. A Middle Mile network is similar to an interstate, while the last mile network is your side roads and 2 lane highways that gets to residential areas and homes. Middle mile networks do not go into residential areas nor does it have an “exit” or splice/drop point in every community along the route. There are technical reasons for this, mainly the fact that every splice/drop point creates a signal loss. The middle mile network is intended for longer distances and for high speeds/bandwidth; unlike last mile networks.
This middle mile network is open access. This means that any service provider can purchase bandwidth (data transport) on this network. Service providers will have the option to use this middle mile network to extend their services into unserved or underserved areas. WISP’s (Wireless Internet Service Providers) will be able to use this middle mile network to extend their reach by adding new tower/wireless sites along the network. Wireline service providers can utilize the network to upgrade circuits to their facilities, possibly allowing them to increase speeds as well as expand DSL and cable modem service into previously unserved areas.
Tell us more about the grant that was applied for.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is awarding over $4 billion in funding for grants to provide the “highest broadband speed possible to the greatest population in unserved and under-served areas.” This program was established under the ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009).
Entities, like Citizens, were encouraged to apply for the grant for rural areas where broadband services were either unavailable or only available at speeds below 3Mbps. One of the requirements was that the network be substantially complete within two years.
Is Citizens traditional ILEC telephone service area eligible for this funding?
No; Citizens traditional ILEC (Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier) service area is considered served – 95% of our traditional customers have access to broadband services today and we are proud to say that approximately 60% of those customers subscribe to our broadband service. In fact when the US Government put together maps showing where broadband services are available, Citizens’ ILEC service area is one of the most served areas of the state of Virginia. For these reasons, Citizens could not have applied for a broadband stimulus grant for their ILEC area.
Why did Citizens go for funding outside of its traditional ILEC (Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier) service area?
One of the primary goals of this grant program is economic development, job creation and sustainability.
Citizens realizes that its customers rely on the economic well-being of the entire region and not just the immediate area serviced by Citizens. Much of Citizens’ traditional service area is considered a bedroom community and over 50% of Citizens customers commute outside of the traditional service area to work. The economic stability and growth of the region as a whole positively impacts our customers and their families.
Ultimately this grant will enable service providers to use this network to offer cost-effective broadband services within a seven county region, including Wythe, Pulaski, Floyd, Giles, Montgomery, Roanoke and Botetourt.
Broadband services are critical for economic development and will aid in attracting new businesses to the region. The network will benefit schools, higher education institutions, emergency services, and health-care systems throughout the region, which in turn benefits the population as a whole.
Why not go after funding for FTTH (fiber to the home) in the ILEC service area?
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is awarding over $4 billion in funding for grants to provide the “highest broadband speed possible to the greatest population in unserved and underserved areas.” This program was established under the ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009).
Citizens’ traditional customer base is considered served – 95% of our traditional customers have access to broadband services today and we are proud to say that approximately 60% of those customers subscribe to our broadband service.
Citizens is working on a long term plan for FTTH in its ILEC service area. The plan to provide FTTH access to every home and business in the service area is currently estimated to cost over $26 million and could take up to a decade to complete. In the meantime, Citizens will continue to explore additional ways to increase bandwidth to customers using existing infrastructure.
Why not use the 20% match from this project to offer FTTH in Citizens traditional ILEC service area?
Citizens partnered with other entities to make this project a reality for the region. Our partners, NRVNWA (New River Valley Network Wireless Authority) and the Virginia Tobacco Commission have committed funds in order to support the project in specific counties. Citizens’ portion of the match was largely in-kind engineering services.