by Joan Tupponce
Danville is attracting national attention, thanks to the success of its nDanville optic broadband network. The city partnered with Broadband Communities Magazine to host the Municipal Fiber Networks conference last month. “Hopefully it was helpful to other communities to learn some things that have worked for us as well as some things that may not have worked that well,” says former Mayor Linwood Wright, now an economic development consultant to the city.
The city’s nDanville network provides open access, high-speed broadband used by businesses such as the technology firm Gamewood Inc., which provides cable and Internet services. The broadband network connects local businesses to Northern and Eastern Virginia, the North Carolina Research Triangle and points beyond through the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative’s regional fiber network. Residential service is now offered as well. “By next spring, over 1,200 homes will have access to fiber optics,” says Jason Grey, broadband network manager for the city’s utility department.
For the past three years, the city has been included in the Intelligent Community Forum’s Smart21, a list of 21 places in the world that have integrated technology into the community. Danville also was cited at the April 2012 Broadband Communities Summit in Dallas as a model for how small cities can use telecommunications to help recruit and expand businesses.
After the demise of tobacco and textile production in Danville, the city made revitalization a priority. “We don’t have an interstate highway, and we don’t have a major commercial airport,” Wright says. “One thing we could develop was a super information highway. Broadband Communities Magazine was intrigued by how we have used the network to help build an economic strategy and to revitalize the local economy.”
Since 2007 when nDanville became available to the commercial sector, the city has created more than 3,000 jobs. “I think we have made reasonably good progress in bringing up the economy,” Wright says. “It’s a constant challenge and an ongoing opportunity.”
Danville has not expanded its network as quickly as other broadband networks, many of which had to secure loans to get the service up and running. “As the revenue increases the residential build-outs will increase,” Grey says. “We have always operated in the black. We have never been in the red.”
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