Rise of the Intra Muni Networks.

Virginia was more known for its tobacco than for its broadband infrastructure. But things seem to be changing. Some of state’s outlying and rural communities are taking the money they received as part of the big tobacco settlement and are building their own fiber networks, hoping that affordable broadband to the consumers. Many tiny hamlets after building their own networks, are now beginning to interconnect. Call this trend, rise of the Intra Muni Networks.

The latest example is a fiber pipe that is soon going to connect Bristol with Lebanon and Richlands. Most of the work has been done, and the first phase of this network could go live in two months. Bristol Virginia Utilities’ OptiNet division in business since 2003 is pushing a two-year project to bring broadband service to Russell and Tazewell counties. This is Bristol-based utility’s second such expansion. Service for businesses should begin on Feb. 15 in the Lebanon area and March 30 in Richlands, the report says.

Further expansions are planned. A line to connect Richlands with Bluefield and into Grundy in Buchanan County is planned. Another cable will connect Hansonville to St. Paul and eventually to Clintwood in Dickenson County. And then in the last phase it could connect to Clintwood and Grundy. Elsewhere in Virginia, City of Danville is building its own network as well.

The Intra Muni Network is an interesting development, and if it gathers momentum, it could mean real trouble for the incumbents. By pooling their scarce resources, the tiny towns can now become a broadband enabled cluster, thereby making a whole geographic area attractive. Stay tuned!