Submitted by acohill on Thu, 12/06/2012 - 10:40
Startup Blacksburg (#bva) met this morning to identify what the region needs to accelerate the creation of jobs and business opportunities in Blacksburg, Montgomery County, and the New River Valley. Using criteria established by Startup America, the area scores surprisingly well on most of the elements needed by startups and high growth potential companies. Montgomery County's Department of Economic Development provided coffee and bagels and has a sharp focus on helping startups and established businesses grow faster. The ED folks have some terrific new marketing materials that really do a great job of highlighting what a great place Montgomery County is to start or to grow a business. Startup Blacksburg is going to continue to meet to help startups and high growth businesses find the resources they need to create jobs and attract capital.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 10/17/2012 - 08:18
If you are interested in seeing firsthand what happens when a city invests in open fiber, there is still time to register for the Broadband Communities Community Fiber Networks conference in Danville, Virginia in early November. Danville's open access fiber network has been a key part of an enormously successful downtown revitalization effort that has brought hundreds of new jobs to the community and international firms have been re-locating to Danville in part because of the high performance, low cost open access fiber network.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 07/09/2012 - 07:31
Danville's keen focus on a comprehensive plan to revitalize the downtown area started with creation of a City-owned open access fiber network five years ago. Downtown Danville continues to attract new development; the City just announced a $14 million redevelopment of a historic building that will bring 40+ jobs into the historic River District area of Danville, close to Main Street, shopping, and the Dan River.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 04/19/2012 - 13:22
Design Nine, located in Blacksburg, is part of Virginia's Blue Ridge. The Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitor's Bureau announced a new branding for our region: Virginia's Blue Ridge. We like it....it fits, and the region needs a recognizable brand. We're proud to live and work here...in Virginia's Blue Ridge.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 02/08/2012 - 15:09
Those of us that have reasonably decent broadband connections at home and at work often forget there are still large parts of America that are still on dial-up. Design Nine just completed the first part of a USDA-funded Community Connect project in Grayson County, Virginia. Grayson County some of the most rugged terrain on the East Coast, and is home to Mount Rogers (elevation 5,729 ft), one of the highest peaks east of the Mississippi River. The Wired Road received the USDA grant to help the rural community of Grant, Virginia get better access to broadband. No reasonably priced fiber was available near the community, so Design Nine engineered a complex, multi-point 300 megabit microwave link from Galax, Virginia, where The Wired Road has its main network site.
The project renovated the historic, 100 year old Grange Hall in Grant, which included major improvements to the building, as well as a radio tower, a fiber link from the tower to the Grange Hall, and the design and implementation of a ten seat computer lab designed specifically to support distance learning and business people who needed broadband access. The computer lab has been extremely popular, and is saving local residents time and money, as they no longer have to drive long distances to get broadband access.
The second phase of the project is nearing completion, and will bring fiber to the home connections to 100 homes in Grant. Network connectivity on the fiber network is being provided by the 300 megabit radio link, which is capable of supporting TV service in the future.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 01/19/2012 - 14:32
Design Nine recently brought up a new 300 megabit wireless link that feeds a community center and a rural fiber to the home effort (100 residences). The fiber to the home work is still underway, but the community center went online a couple of weeks ago, with both wireless access and a lab with ten fully equipped computers. Local residents of this very rural community have been flocking to the center. Many are bringing their laptops and just using the wireless link to the Internet, and many others are using the computers in the lab. What is interesting is the number of people that are using the bandwidth to take college courses online. Formerly, they were driving anywhere between 15 and 30 miles to get to a location where they could get broadband Internet access, and they are delighted to have broadband just minutes from their home. Some of them will be able to order fiber connections directly to the home as that construction work is finished, but in this economy, the ability to take college classes without driving long distances saves real money.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 11/29/2011 - 10:26
Business Insider lists the Roanoke, Virginia area as one of twenty smaller areas of the country that could become a high tech "Silicon Valley" type of region. The factors used to create the list are instructive:
The Roanoke-Blacksburg region has the best fit on the fourth item, with Virginia Tech as a powerhouse for engineering and computer science, and many other good schools like Roanoke College, Radford University, and Hollins College, along with two community colleges with strong technology programs.
Note that the first item listed is broadband access. While the Roanoke region has moderately good availability, choice is limited and prices are high due to lack of competition. So how does one of the listed regions break out and surge ahead, given that all of them already have met the article's minimum qualifications? Here's my list:
How does your region compare to this list of twenty? What would it take to get onto the list? What would it take to break out?
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 10/28/2011 - 08:38
Danville, Virginia is a Smart21 Intelligent Community for 2012. The Intelligent Community Forum announced the top 21 communities this week, and next year seven of those communities will be selected for the Smart7 category. Design Nine has been assisting Danville with the design and development of their City-owned open access fiber network since 2006. nDanville subscribers have access to 100 meg, Gigabit, and 10Gig transport and a choice of private sector services. nDanville is beginning construction of Fiber To The Home (FTTH), which will include a triple-play voice/TV/Internet offering.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 08/18/2011 - 08:53
Back in 2006, with the help of Design Nine, the City of Danville made the decision to open their city-owned fiber for commercial use. The first customers were connected in 2007. The self-funded project has grown slowly, has spent carefully, and manages more than one hundred and fifty miles of fiber with just two dedicated staff. The City had an early advantage because Danville is an electric city--they own many of the utility poles, and electric utility line crews have done much of the construction and maintenance work. Some specialized work, like fiber splicing, is still outsourced.
This article in Virginia Business highlights the slow but steady changes that the municipally-owned fiber have brought to the community.
nDanville's early focus has been on serving businesses, and every lot in all five business parks in the area are passed by nDanville fiber. Many other commercial areas of the City are also passed by nDanville fiber, and all the substations in the 500 square mile electric service area are managed with nDanville fiber. But the project has just announced their first fiber to the home initiative, starting with a 250 home pilot project.
The City of Danville, which once had the highest unemployment in Virginia, now looks like the best place for a technology business in the Commonwealth. What other Virginia community can offer:
City leaders have taken the slow and steady approach on a wide variety of economic revitalization initiatives, but it is fiber that has, quite literally, connected the dots for Danville.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 08/03/2011 - 17:07
Here in Virginia, Roanoke County and the City of Salem are struggling with the same problem that many other localities in the country have: cable companies that won't renew franchise agreements. Comcast purchased an aging cable system from Adelphia a few years ago when Adelphia went bankrupt. At the time, Comcast promised the localities it would upgrade the old system so it could support improved Internet access. But the upgrade never happened, and so there is little competition, high prices, and poor service for broadband in Salem and parts of Roanoke County.
One of the problems that the cable companies have is that both their physical plant and their business model is obsolete. The fifty year old business model does not generate enough revenue to justify replacement of the old analog copper/coax infrastructure. So the companies are understandably reluctant to continue to make franchise payments and/or to make expensive upgrades.
To make matters worse, companies like Netflix, Amazon, and Apple are all eating away at the cable company customer base with better services that are not based on "500 channels and nothing to watch." If Apple, which has only been dabbling in streaming video, decides to throw the full weight of the company behind a serious streaming service, Amazon and Netflix will finally have some real competition. Apple did not build a 1 million square foot data center in North Carolina just so Apple users could back up their iPhoto baby pictures.
If the cable companies embraced the open access business model, they could turn things around very quickly, but so far, the cable industry has been unwilling to listen. Not so with some phone companies, who could also make a lot more money embracing open access; I've at least been able to have a conversation with some incumbents, but mid-level managers at the companies are still digging in their heels and refusing to change. So senior staff are stuck with a corporate culture that would rather have the company go bankrupt than change and prosper.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 06/17/2011 - 09:44
Here is an article about the City of Danville open access network (called nDanville). nDanville started as an open access network in late 2007, so it is in its fourth year. It was the first municipal open access effort in the United States, and has been quietly cutting costs for Internet and VoIP phone service by as much 80% for businesses and institutions using providers on the nDanville fiber network. It has also been bringing jobs and businesses to the community. One of the major economic developments in which nDanville played a key role was the re-purposing of the "White Mill" building. Just a couple of blocks from downtown, the White Mill building was once one of the largest textile plants in the country. But it was closed years ago, and the multi-story building sat empty until it was purchased last year. It is undergoing a complete renovation as a high tech data center, and access to nDanville fiber was crucial to closing the deal. nDanville has also helped attract a specialty PC manufacturer to the community, and more broadly, just about every business using providers on the nDanville network have enjoyed substantially lower costs for VPNs, Internet access, and voice services. The local hospital recently switched to an IP TV provider on nDanville and is enjoying substantial monthly savings from the switch.
nDanville is operated with a staff of two people as part of the City Utilities department. All services to businesses and residents are provided by private sector providers that use nDanville to transport those services over a high performance active Ethernet fiber network. nDanville offers standard 100 megabit, Gigabit, and 10Gigabit connections. Design Nine provided the City with the original business, financial, and technical planning with the network, and continues to assist the City with the project.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 05/19/2011 - 13:07
The nDanville Medical Network has won the Intelligent Community Forum Founders Award. The Medical Network is part of the larger nDanville fiber initiative, which was the first municipal open access network in the United States; the network began adding its first customers in 2007. Medical customers on the network have averaged 30% less cost for connections while being able to double the amount bandwidth, for a total overall cost reduction of more than 50%. The high performance fiber has enabled transmission of CT and other medical imaging scans between the hospital and the medical imaging center in another part of the city.nDanville is a client of Design Nine.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 04/06/2011 - 09:48
There is a significant push nationwide to simply let the cellphone companies "solve" the rural broadband problem by rolling out "little broadband" cellular data services in rural areas and proclaiming, "Job done!" This story from the Daily Yonder illustrates, unfortunately, it's not going to be that simple.
Customer service problems aside, the structural issue is that cellular wireless simply does not have now, nor will it ever have, enough bandwidth to support everything people want to do. Verizon is now having the same iPhone data/bandwidth problems that AT&T had when the latter company first rolled out the very capable iPhone four years ago. And AT&T has now moved to bandwidth-limited contracts because the company simply can't keep up with demand. Wireless broadband is very important in rural areas as a bridge technology to get homes and businesses off dial-up and onto something better. But like other "little broadband" technologies like DSL and cable modem services, WiFi/WiMax/cellular wireless networks can't do it all. Wireless networks are needed for mobile access, and fiber is needed for jobs and economic development.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 01/31/2011 - 09:10
The Roanoke Times ran an article yesterday (Sunday) in the business section on two stimulus projects building fiber in the Blacksburg-Roanoke region. The two middle mile projects are not linked to any comprehensive last mile efforts, which is also the challenge for many stimulus-funded middle mile projects in other areas.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 11/16/2010 - 13:45
Design Nine has its corporate headquarters at the Corporate Research Center here in Blacksburg. The CRC recently added a new amenity for its tenants: a state of the art videoconferencing meeting room. We've used the room to save money on travel, and it is something every business park should have. The system the CRC installed is very high quality, with a high quality remote control camera and a very large, wall-mounted flat panel TV. The combination of the high quality camera and large screen gives you a "you are there" experience that is well beyond the typical Skype or iChat software. And the CRC has excellent bandwidth out to the Internet, meaning a clean, crisp image. In a recent meeting, the party on the other side had very limited upstream bandwidth, and it was obvious--what we saw on our end was a very poor image with heavy pixelation.
Want more information? Download our attached handout on the technology business parks need to be competitive in a tough economic climate.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 11/16/2010 - 11:40
The nDanville fiber network, owned and operated by the City of Danville as an open access network, has helped a local dentist practice expand services to new locations, and has created jobs doing so. The affordable, high performance fiber has allowed the four office practice to have all dental records available at all four locations, reducing costs and making it easier for patients and the dentists.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 10/21/2010 - 15:52
The Intelligent Community Forum announced the Smart21 cities for 2010 today. Danville, Virginia was among those cities chosen, and one of only six U.S. cities selected for the honor. Design Nine has assisted with the planning and development of nDanville since the project started in 2006. nDanville is an open access network owned and operated by the City of Danville, but residential and business services are provided by private sector companies.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 06/11/2010 - 15:43
The nDanville fiber network is almost three years old, and is beginning to get national recognition here. Design Nine has been working with the City of Danville on this effort since 2006. We did the early business and financial planning, vendor selection, and open access network design. More about nDanville is available on their Web site.
Submitted by acohill on Sun, 05/09/2010 - 11:01
DirecTV recently announced it was bringing more jobs to southwest Virginia, but these are not traditional jobs. Instead, these are work from home jobs. The company is establishing a virtual call center. Congressman Rick Boucher made a sweep through the region last month to announce the new job opportunities, which amount to 100 new jobs. DirecTV already employs more than 1100 home-based workers, and other major firms like Apple have been making heavy use of home-based workers for several years.
What does this mean for economic development? Several things jump out:
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 04/19/2010 - 08:39
One of the earliest deployments of broadband over power lines (BPL) was the City of Manassas, Virginia. But last week, the city voted to turn off the system. Manassas is an electric city, with its own electric utility department, which made it relatively easy for the city to try out the new technology several years ago. But the BPL service reached only a handful of households and businesses (a little over 500, or less than 4%) and was not able to compete with DSL and cable modem options.
The fundamental problem with BPL is that it is relatively expensive, and when you are finished with a BPL deployment, what you have is broadband over copper, with limited bandwidth and no easy way to upgrade. Kind of like DSL and cable modem services. Fiber becomes more compelling by the day, as the demand for capacity increases as video in all its forms becomes a more common application and as the cost of fiber networks continues to fall. Why spend a substantial portion of the cost of a fiber network on a very limited copper-based system?
The fundamental problem with BPL, from a community perspective, is that it does not enable economic development and jobs growth the same way that fiber does. If your economic development strategy is, "Come to our community, because we have anemic BPL," you are in trouble, because there are plenty of other communities competing with you that have already decided to go straight to fiber.
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