Citizens Telephone Cooperative Awarded Community Comprehensive Infrastructure (CCI) Grant from NTIA to Build Middle Mile Fiber Network in the NRV Region of Virginia

Citizens Telephone Cooperative (Citizens) will expand existing open-access fiber in rural Virginia, making affordable, high-speed broadband service a reality for underserved and unserved areas.
Many community anchor institutions in the New River Valley region of Virginia report being unable to access high-speed, affordable broadband services. In an effort to address this problem, NTIA has awarded a $9.2 million dollar grant to Citizens Telephone Cooperative (Citizens) to extend its open-access fiber network into unserved and underserved communities in the region. The project, New River Valley – Regional Open Access Network or NRV-ROAN, is an $11.5 million dollar project to construct 186 miles of middle mile fiber with access in remote communities with the purpose of providing access for economic development, research, education, emergency response, and health care. The grant proposal was a joint effort between Citizens and the New River Valley Network Wireless Authority (NRVNWA).

This “middle-mile” project traverses a seven county region, including Wythe, Pulaski, Floyd, Giles, Montgomery, Roanoke and Botetourt. Initially this 186 mile route will be 200Gbps and include eight primary interconnection points that are strategically positioned to provide service to unserved and/or underserved areas and to tie into other open access networks. This will allow wireless and other internet service providers to offer services to areas where service was previously unavailable; or areas that were determined to be economically infeasible.

“The impact and opportunities this joint venture will provide on these rural communities by allowing them to gain access to high quality, high speed, and affordable networks is paramount.” says Dennis Reece, Assistant General Manager of Citizens.

Adds Congressman Rick Boucher, “Our work to build Southwest Virginia’s broadband infrastructure has borne fruit. For example in the Spring, I announced that DIRECTV would locate a virtual call center in our region as a result of the region’s extensive broadband network, and that center now employs 137 Southwest Virginia residents. The federal funds announced today represent another major step forward in advancing our economic development opportunities by expanding our information technology infrastructure”.

More than 50 community anchor institutions including Virginia Tech, Radford University, New River Community College, public safety entities, healthcare facilities and government facilities will have access to speeds between 10 Mbps and 10 Gbps through Citizens extended open-access network. Entities such as Radford University will now have diverse routing, significantly decreasing the chances of network loss and New River Community College’s two campuses will now be interconnected, as will four public school systems: Pulaski, Giles, Montgomery and Wythe.

Citizens Telephone Cooperative, a member-owned telephone cooperative headquartered in the Floyd, Virginia, has provided communications services within the region since 1914. The company has extensive experience managing grants to deploy networks, including a 246-mile open access network by leveraging its infrastructure in conjunction with funding from the Virginia Tobacco Commission.