BRISTOL, Va. - Parts of six Southwest Virginia counties will receive broadband Internet service thanks to a $3 million federal grant, the area's congressman said Wednesday.
The U.S. Department of Commerce economic development grant will allow the nonprofit Coalfield Coalition to link fiber-optic backbones in areas served by the Lenowisco and Cumberland Plateau planning district commissions.
The grant matches a previously announced $3 million grant from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission.
"By linking the two networks, high-speed broadband services will be established in communities in Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Tazewell and Wise counties which currently do not have access to such services," said U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, D-9th.
Bristol Virginia Utilities, which already has wired parts of Russell County, will complete the work along about 160 miles of roads, Boucher said.
It will be a "long-term project" with a completion date not yet set, he said.
Officials from the coalition, planning districts and utility were taking time off during the holidays and unavailable for comment on the news.
Fiber-optic service in Russell County was important in helping attract about 700 new jobs there this year, Boucher said.
"Extending and linking the Cumberland Plateau and Lenowisco fiber-optic backbones promises to provide even greater opportunities for new economic development and job creation throughout the coal-producing counties of our region," he said.
Fiber-optic cabling has been scheduled for:
* Russell County along Alternate U.S. Highway 58 from Hansonville to Castlewood;
* Tazewell County along U.S. Highways 19 and 460 from Claypool Hill to Bluefield and from Richlands into Buchanan County;
* Buchanan County along U.S. 460 from Vansant to Grundy and state Route 83 to Buchanan County Information Park and the University of Appalachia's pharmacy school;
* Lee County along U.S. 58 from Jonesville to Rose Hill;
* Wise County along Alternate U.S. 58 from St. Paul to Coeburn and Lonesome Pine Regional Technology Park in Wise; and
* Along U.S Highway 23 from Wise to Pound and into Dickenson County to the town of Clintwood.