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U.S. gives $21 m. in broadband grants to connect schools in southern Virginia

The Obama administration announced $21 million in stimulus grants to bring hundreds of miles of fiber-optic Internet lines to rural southern Virginia.

The area is the latest to receive stimulus grants aimed at wiring the nation for high-speed Internet access. And like previous grants, the projects are mainly focused on so-called "middle mile" networks that won't bring access to the doorsteps of homes, but serves to connect far-flung areas that are cut off from the main networks in more urban areas.

With Monday's announcement, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration has awarded $228 million in grants and 51 state broadband mapping grants worth $97 million. The NTIA is charged with distributing $4.7 billion of a total $7.2 billion in funds for broadband stimulus grants. The Department of Agriculture has announced $364 million in grants.

The southern Virginia grants will help provide new connections for schools and universities -- the community centers of many rural areas.

The Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative will receive $16 million in grants to add 465 miles of new fiber to an existing 800-fiber network. The fiber network will be used to connect 121 K-12 schools to take advantange of distance learning with access speeds of at least 10 mbps.

The Virginia Tech Foundation will receive $5.5 million for a 110-mile open access fiber network between Blacksburg and Bedford City. The resulting network would cross six counties in Virginia's Appalachian region and provide high-speed connections to Virginia Tech's main campus in Blacksburg and the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute in Roanoke.

By Cecilia Kang  |  February 8, 2010; 1:46 PM ET
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