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History of the BEV

The concept of the BEV came about in early 1991, although its origins can be traced back much earlier. At that time, Virginia Tech had a sophisticated campus-wide voice/data network, and began looking into ways to extend network access to faculty, staff, and students living in Blacksburg. A decision was made to join forces with the Town of Blacksburg and the local telephone company to offer Internet access to every citizen in town. Virgnia Tech Information Systems was the leader of the initiative.

The next two years were spent readying the town's information infrastructure-installing digital switching equipment and a fiber backbone. In the spring of 1993, a group of citizens beta tested the first distribution of the BEV software which included Internet e-mail and gopher clients. The BEV officially opened its doors for business in October, 1993. Initially, only dial-up access was offered; ISDN and Ethernet were made available in 1994. The software package was enlarged to include a full suite of Internet tools.

By late 1995, local Internet entrepreneurs were ready to start offering local Internet access, and the BEV turned over its modem pool customers to the private sector, creating jobs and new economic development opportunities in the region.

In 1998, the BEV turned over its residential Ethernet operations to the private sector, again creating new jobs and new business opportunities in the region. By late 1997, there were at least 24 new high tech businesses in the Blacksburg area providing a wide range of Internet services, consulting, hardware, and programming services.

Today, the BEV group continues to explore new ways to apply network technology to support and enhance the every day human activities of Blacksburg.

BEV firsts

The BEV broke new ground in many areas of networking and technology use. Some examples include:

  • Highest per capita use of the Internet in the world, with more than 87% of Blacksburg residents online. An estimated 60% have broadband access at home, at work, or both.
  • First town in the world to adopt an all-Internet model for a community-wide network.
  • First community in the United States to offer residential Ethernet service as an amenity in apartments and townhomes.
  • First county in the United States to have every school directly connected to the Internet. In Montgomery County today, every classroom in every school has direct, high-speed Internet access.
  • Blacksburg has a high per capita availability of ISPs, with nearly a dozen local and national providers offering modem and dedicated access, including cable modem, ISDN, and DSL services.
  • Highest business use of the Internet of any community in the world, with more than 75% of Blacksburg businesses using the Internet for commerce and advertising.