Vidalia, a Louisiana town with 4,300 residents, is a small town with a big idea. Vidalia one of the poorest regions in the country with an unemployment rate hovering around 9.4% so area leaders seek new ways to improve opportunity. The Vidalia Broadband Initiative aims to connect every home with a gig and provide 10 gig capacity for every business connection.
From a June, 2011 Natchez Democrat story:
“We realize the importance of being connected to the Internet,” [City Manager Ken Walker] said. “And the only way to really meet the need to ensure adequate Internet access is through direct fiber optics to each building.”
Along with other communities in the region, Vidalia anticipated using part of a 2010 Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant for $80 million to build their network, estimated at $9 million. But the entire BTOP grant was revoked when it became apparent that the Governor’s Administration intended to violate the rules of the grant by giving the new infrastructure to big carriers that had no intention of adhering to the open access rules.
Vidalia decided to forge ahead and seek funding on their own. The community is seeking out a variety of funding sources, including UDSA Rural Utility grants. In the meantime, Vidalia is taking advantage of any and all opportunities to invest in fiber assets.
The town has its own electrical utility and wants to develop a smart-grid. The City has been actively involved with negotiations with a local telephone and data company to provide service, but is planning on an open access model hoping to encourage competition. The City’s long term goal is to provide fiber to each home in Vidalia and give residents a choice of providers. Right now, there are two providers in the community and service is described as “often slow and interrupted.”
This week, Rod Guajardo, of the Natchez Democrat, reported that the City began installing video surveillance cameras on its new municipal building. Municipal staff moved into the building in March. The new municipal complex was funded by a $6.94 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loan and part of the construction included conduit and fiber for communications in and around the building. Connecting the building and installing fiber based based surveillance is one of the first of many steps Vidalia will take to get its network.