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Contract puts Bristol Virginia Utilities in a new line of business

Staff report • Aug 17, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Bristol Virginia Utilities on Thursday introduced BVU FOCUS, a business unit offering advanced IT consulting, operations and management services to municipal entities globally.

Created as a division of BVU OptiNet, FOCUS stands for Finding Opportunities for Communities Throughout the United States.

BVU’s FOCUS already has its first customer — MI-Connection, a cable and Internet company located north of Charlotte, N.C. The network is locally owned by the towns of Mooresville and Davidson, with additional subscribers from the nearby town of Cornelius also contributing to the customer base.

Members of town boards for Davidson, Mooresville and an unincorporated section of Mecklenburg County voted earlier this week to approve a five-year contract with BVU FOCUS to manage the cable and Internet system for the towns. The MI-Connection service area is the second region in the state of North Carolina to have a governmentowned telecommunications system.

“This is an exciting and busy period in the history of BVU,” said company President and CEO Wes Rosenbalm. “We are proud to have developed the expertise in the area of fiber-optic broadband technology and all the operational processes that come with it during the past several years as we have ramped up our OptiNet division.

“During this time, we have been contacted by numerous municipal entities from across the country, especially in the past 18 months,” Rosenbalm said.

He said BVU has also been contacted by leaders from Europe and Australia who have heard about its technical capabilities.

“We’re now prepared to offer services at almost any level on a global basis,” Rosenbalm said.

In 2003, BVU became the first municipal utility company in the nation to launch a fiber-to-the-user (FTTU) network offering the full triple play of services — Internet, telephone and cable TV. The company won a legal battle in Virginia in the late 1990s by overturning a state statute that prohibited municipalities from offering telecommunications services.

The idea of establishing a consulting division of OptiNet was introduced to the BVU board of directors earlier this year after the utility was inundated with requests for consulting assistance from other municipal entities across the country. The decision was made to market BVU FOCUS as a separate business unit, with its own logo and business plan.

“We began thinking how we could benefit the city of Bristol, as well as strengthen America’s broadband capabilities globally by simply helping other communities find workable solutions for deploying telecommunications and information services,” said Jim Rector, Bristol, Va., mayor who once chaired the BVU board.

BVU currently serves 7,793 fiber-to-the-user customers through its OptiNet division and provides electric power to approximately 16,258 consumers in a 125-square-mile service area in Bristol, Va., and portions of Washington and Scott counties in Virginia and Sullivan County, Tenn. BVU has eight substations and approximately 577 miles of distribution lines and 29 miles of transmission lines.

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