Virginia Lowers Cost of Entry to E-Economy

Looking to spread the wealth of the Internet economy across the state, Virginia is offering businesses discounted highspeed telecommunications services.

VirginiaLink, announced Thursday by Virginia Secretary of Technology Don Upson, is designed to increase connectivity in parts of the state that have not experienced the technology boom enjoyed by Northern Virginia and other metropolitan areas.

Rural regions typically face a high cost of entry for high-speed network services because telecommunications providers base their rates on anticipated business. But Upson's office, working with the Virginia Center for Innovative Technology and Virginia Tech, negotiated high-volume rates with MCI WorldCom and Sprint. Two more deals are being negotiated.

By lowering the cost of entry, Virginia hopes to spur business in new regions of the state. "You can't leave people behind, or you are going to lose the promise that IT offers our society," Upson said.

The program will offer T-1 connectivity (1.544 megabits/sec) at "significantly lower rates" than it is available in many regions of the state, Upson said. These rates do not involve state subsidies, he added.

Businesses can take advantage of the discount by joining the VirginiaLink Consortium. Through March 31, a one-year membership will cost end users $100 per business location, with a maximum fee per firm of $1,000. Available services include Internet access and voice, video and data communications.

The Center for Innovative Technology, a state-charted nonprofit organization focused on technology and business, is managing the consortium.

-- John Stein Monroe (jsmonroe@civic.com)

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