The project will connect more than 500 households at a cost of $3,275,206, with Valley contributing $297,746 of the investment. The grant will boost local broadband infrastructure investment. It will enhance the speed and reach of high-speed internet for customers. It has the capacity to strengthen economic growth, thereby improving the economic conditions and quality of life in rural Cochise County. “Many areas the city is annexing do not have fiber,” Willcox Mayor Mike Laws said. “The Fiber Investment for West Willcox Rural Community project is essential and will provide additional housing options to our local workforce and will continue to spur economic development in Cochise County.”

The project will include the city’s Quail Park, where increasing internet access to this community resource would be a benefit. “Inadequate broadband services marginalize our rural residents. These projects help to close the digital divide in Patagonia and the rural area west of Willcox,” wrote Randy Heiss, executive director of the Southeastern Arizona Governments Organization in a letter to the ACA supporting the project. “Providing high quality internet access enhances opportunities for education, telemedicine and connection to a broader society,” Heiss stated. “What we have right now is OK, but it’s wireless, it can be inconsistent,” said Louise Walden, owner of Walden Aviation and manager of Cochise County Airport, an early supporter of the fiber optic investment grant. The airport sits on the boundary of the proposed project area. “Having access to high-speed internet empowers us to serve those who use Cochise County Airport at a higher level,” Walden said. The airport is the base for more than 30 aircraft and home to Flight Fundamentals Inc., a flight school. The school specializes in advanced flight instruction and specialty training. “We can take you all the way to the airlines,” said Brett Bossert, FFI flight instructor. He sees the improvements in infrastructure as only a positive. FFI, like most modern businesses, relies increasingly on being connected to the internet. Bossert said, “It’s definitely going to help out, with updating our databases, avionics, and maintaining contact with our online scheduling, billing and even maintenance.”

Willcox Unified School District Superintendent Kevin Davis was a proponent of the project since it was announced. The school district serves more than 1,000 students, with about 19% below the poverty line. In a letter in support of the fiber optic project Davis highlighted the need for the improvements and wrote of the impact the COVID pandemic restrictions had on students. “The difference in attendance and absorption of material for students with quality internet services versus those with lower quality in services was dramatic,” said Davis. While the schools have returned to in-person learning, Davis said the differences still exist and are experienced daily by students needing to access resources and doing homework. “I’m glad to see Arizona being proactive and making the necessary investment in internet services, especially in rural areas,” Davis wrote.

Fiber Investment for West Willcox Rural Community 

Valley was awarded grant funding to bring fiber internet to 8.2 square miles north of Interstate 10 in the Willcox Region. The cost of the project will be $2,977,460 with Valley contributing matching funds of $297,746. This project would install 46 miles of fiber and connect 513 households. This project will be 100% fiber optic Internet with the ability to operate at Gigabit speeds.

The awarding of this grant accelerates local broadband infrastructure investment; enhancing the speed, redundancy and reach of high-speed internet for customers, strengthening their capacity and competitiveness for economic growth – thereby improving the economic conditions and quality of life in rural Cochise County.

“As the City continues to grow, Valley Telecom plays an important role in economic development. Many areas the city is annexing do not have fiber. The Fiber Investment for West Willcox Rural Community project is essential and will provide additional housing options to our local workforce and will continue to spur economic development in Cochise County. This project also includes the City of Willcox Quail Park, increasing fiber Internet access to this vital community resource would be a benefit for the many events hosted at the park” wrote, Michael Laws, Mayor of Willcox in a letter to the ACA supporting the project.

Santa Cruz County Regional Broadband Project – Patagonia

Valley, in partnership with Santa Cruz County, was awarded grant funding to bring fiber internet to Patagonia, AZ. The cost of the project will be $2,103,585 with Valley contributing matching funds of $210,359. The Patagonia project will cover 1.26 square miles bringing access to fiber internet to 633 residential structures and businesses within the project footprint. This project will be 100% fiber optic Internet with the ability to operate at Gigabit speeds.

Building on a feasibility study commissioned by Santa Cruz County in 2020, the Patagonia Project is the first phase of a multi-phase approach to build out a middle mile network and provide fiber to the home and businesses to the most rural areas of Santa Cruz County. For Santa Cruz County and its local communities to successfully execute its economic plan and achieve future economic goals, high speed broadband must be available and affordable to support business development, health care advancements and improve higher education opportunities in the area.

City of Safford Downtown Wifi Project

The City of Safford was awarded an ACA AZ State Broadband Development Grant to install fiber optic cable, access points and other equipment required to provide broadband Internet in downtown Safford and at all Safford public parks including Glen Meadows, Firth, La Tierra, and El Paso Park (to be developed). The City of Safford is collaborating with Valley to provide the internet access and install the equipment necessary to allow residents and visitors to have free broadband internet access. 

The project will address the broadband needs of low-income residents in Safford by offering internet access at no cost. The Census shows 75.6% of the populations has broadband internet but that means 24.4% of Safford populations and estimated 2,471 residents do not have broadband. The Safford City-Graham County library has over 115 people a day visit the library to access the internet, illustrating the need for more broadband access in Safford.

The Safford projects support the Arizona Broadband Development Grant priorities to accelerate broadband infrastructure, strengthening economic growth and economic conditions in rural Arizona. The project will provide a big impact for this rural city at a low cost.

“This grant directly speaks to SEAGO’s mission to enhance economic and social progress for communities in our four-county region. Inadequate broadband services marginalize our rural residents. These projects help to close the digital divide in Patagonia and the rural area west of Willcox. Providing high quality internet access that enhances opportunities for education, telemedicine, and connection to a broader society“ stated, Randy Heiss, Executive Director of SEAGO in a letter to the ACA supporting the project.

The AZ State Broadband Development Grant Program was announced on November 15, 2021. The grant program had $100M to award with $75M designated specifically for rural areas. The minimum speed of 100/25mbps needed to be achieved to be eligible receive award funds. Proposed grants must have a minimum 10% match in funds with higher matches encouraged and a positive factor in evaluating the application.

The ACA received two times the number of applications that were anticipated, in total they had 87 applications to process for a total of more than $400M. The multitude of applications delayed the announcement of awardees by four months but that wait is now over.


About Valley TeleCom Group
Valley TeleCom Group is a local telecommunications company that provides high-speed Internet, phone and business solutions to southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico. Valley has offices in Clifton, AZ; Safford, AZ; and Willcox, AZ and have been providing services since 1962.  www.vtc.net

Contact: Kristi Lee
Email: 
kristi.lee@teamvtg.net
www.vtc.net

High speed internet that is reliable and affordable will transform rural communities.

Businesses that were once limited to only providing store fronts will now be able to expand their reach and serve a broader customer base, and residents that live in the area can enjoy the same connectivity offered in urban areas.

In addition, high speed broadband will also provide opportunities for distance learning, telemedicine, telecommuting, smart agriculture, and allow access to public safety agencies and other government facilities maximizing available resources to bring the best services to the area. Valley’s proposed design will deploy new fiber to deliver speeds of up to 1 Gbps over the fiber network.

“Valley’s mission has always been to provide high-quality communications service in rural areas. We have had great success in the areas where we have already been able to provide fiber-to-the-home and are very excited to soon be able to offer the Internet service that customers in our more rural areas both need and deserve.” said, Steve Metts, Valley’s CEO.

It will be a heavy construction period for Valley as it upgrades and connects over 4,000 locations in Arizona and over 1,000 in New Mexico, over the next 5 years. 

Valley has secured a $45 million loan from USDA Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to upgrade 90% of its Cooperative Service territory to fiber Internet. The Valley Cooperative territory spans Southwest New Mexico and Southeastern Arizona encompassing 16 communities.

  •         Animas, NM
  •         Bonita, AZ
  •         Bowie, AZ
  •         Clifton, AZ
  •         Columbus, NM
  •         Duncan, AZ
  •         Elfrida, AZ
  •         Morenci, AZ
  •         Pearce, AZ
  •         Playas, NM
  •         Portal, AZ
  •         Rodeo, NM
  •         San Simon, AZ
  •         Sunizona, AZ
  •         Virden, NM
  •         York Valley, AZ
The first service territory to be getting the fiber upgrade is the Bonita/Klondyke area. Soon those residents and many more throughout Southeastern Arizona and Southwestern New Mexico will have access to Internet speeds that will enable remote learning, telemedicine, work from home opportunities and endless streaming capabilities.

About Valley TeleCom Group
Valley TeleCom Group is a local telecommunications company that provides high-speed Internet, phone and business solutions to southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico. Valley has offices in Clifton, AZ; Safford, AZ; and Willcox, AZ and have been providing services since 1962.  www.vtc.net

Interest in the summer employment program was robust with 32 applicants. Applicants were required to be age 16 and up and currently enrolled in high school. Hours are flexible and will be tailored to each student employee for a maximum of 400 hours.  “Hiring in rural communities is a challenge which we face on a regular basis. One of the main goals of our Student Summer Employment Program is to expose local youth to the telecommunications industry and create interest in their future employment with Valley. We are looking forward to spending time with these PRESS Press Releases + + - students over the summer and helping them to learn about our industry and the future jobs they may be interested in locally.” said, Troy Judd, CFO. The Valley interviewing team was impressed with the student applicants. It was evident that the student applicants had prepared for their interviews and had done research on Valley.  The team will have a hard decision to make narrowing down the interview pool to the final four student employees. The student employees will gain valuable work experience during their summer employment, enabling them to build their resumes. Exposing students to the telecommunication industry benefits Valley creating future employment interest in the field.

About Valley TeleCom Group
Valley TeleCom Group is a local telecommunications company that provides high-speed Internet, phone and business solutions to southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico. Valley has offices in Clifton, AZ; Safford, AZ; and Willcox, AZ and have been providing services since 1962. 
www.vtc.net

The grant is part of the Arizona Broadband Development Grant Program (ABDG) – a $100 million project under the Arizona Commerce Authority that represents one of the largest broadband investments in state history. The funding is focused on helping communities to construct or improve broadband infrastructure in rural areas.

“It’s a federal grant specific to rural Arizona, and that’s why our board was particularly anxious to get this done,” Graham County Supervisor Paul David said.

“Ordinarily, when we’re competing against metropolitan areas, we have a much lower success rate. We hate reading about other areas that took a chance, put money into a project and do see that success. So we thought, why not us? And we have high hopes,” he said.

After surveying a number of underserved areas, the board decided to expand broadband access northwest from Thatcher for this project, as Thatcher is the current terminus of fiber internet in Graham County. Valley Telecom invested around $9 million to bring fiber internet capability to the Town of Thatcher, and completed its first round of residential connections in October. “We really admired what Valley Telecom had done in Thatcher, and we really jumped at this opportunity because we’ve seen the return and the benefit to our county residents,” David said.

The pandemic also laid bare the importance of better internet connectivity for daily life. “Whether it’s school kids or people working from home, COVID definitely emphasized the fact that high-speed connectivity was missing, and because we don’t have four or five million to get into the business ourselves or the expertise for something like this, we thought partnering on this project, in essence, was the best way to deliver broadband to these communities,” David said.

Depending on the outcome of this grant cycle, David said the county’s success here could lead to further broadband expansion into the areas south and east of Safford, and between I-10 and Duncan. “Of course, we’re still hopeful. It’ll be a bitter pill if we don’t get anything, but if we do, boy wouldn’t that be wonderful,” David said. If awarded, both Graham County and Valley Telecom would match funds of up to $730,000 for the grant, with the county using funds from its last round of COVID relief money from the American Rescue Plan Act to bolster its application. The project in Graham is estimated to cost around $4.8 million, Graham County Supervisor Danny Smith said. “In a pre-COVID world, it would be kind of unusual for the county to be involved in such a thing because we don’t have the money to do such a thing,” Smith said. “But there’s money for broadband out there, and we’re trying to make sure we’re not leaving money on the table because it’ll go to other communities if we don’t apply for it,” he said.

Compared to a satellite internet connection, a fiber internet connection can support higher bandwidth and data rates. Most satellite internet providers offer speeds between 25 and 150 megabytes-per-second (Mbps), whereas cable and fiber can reach over 1,000 Mbps (or one gigabit per second). “With a fiber build, these communities will be able to get much more capacity,” said Heather Floyd, a spokesperson for Valley Telecom Group. “And just to be able to provide this level of service to a rural community…you can’t get this sort of service sometimes even in the bigger cities, so we’re ecstatic.”

Following the grant application deadline on Jan. 31, the Arizona Commerce Authority plans to announce grant recipients at the end of February. If the county’s project is selected, Floyd said things could move quickly. “All the grants have to be used within 24 months, and we’re estimating we could be done in about a year. There’s about a three-month time period for permits and securing a contractor, and once we have all that lined up, it’s about an eight-month build-out,” she said. Typically, only about a third of customers take the initial offering of a new internet provider, which adds up to about 300 households for this project, Floyd said, but once word gets out, interest will likely grow. “That tends to be our experience, really, with any product. There’s always early adopters and then people who wait until a little bit afterwards to commit, but then once the product is out there, more people tend to start calling in,” she said.
Valley Telephone Cooperative’s Board President, David Thompson said “We believe that supporting these students in furthering their education is what gives back to our community and we are so pleased to be able to invest in their future through higher education." Since 2003, the foundation has awarded over $1.5 million in scholarships to worthy students and this year’s recipients were recognized during Valley Telephone Cooperative’s Virtual Annual Meeting on May 1, 2021.

The Valley Telephone Cooperative Foundation donated a total of $94,000 which was distributed between 10 school districts within their serving area. These donated funds were used to purchase laptops and tablets to support at-home student learning during the height of COVID-19. In addition, to further assist families during the pandemic, Valley created the DASH (Discounted Access for Student Homework) program, which provided discounted Internet service to families in need..
About Valley TeleCom Group

Valley TeleCom Group is a local telecommunications company that provides high-speed Internet, phone and business solutions to southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico. They have offices in Animas, NM; Clifton, AZ; Safford, AZ; and Willcox, AZ and have been serving this area since 1962.

The last year has been difficult for many residents in our local communities and the grim reality of the coronavirus pandemic has put a large part of our population at risk. From November 1st through mid-December of 2020, for each new customer that signed up for internet service, Valley TeleCom gave a $50.00 bill credit and donated $50.00 to support the customer’s favorite local cause. It was an arrangement designed to donate money back into the parts of our local communities that need it most.

“Through this campaign, we’ve been able to donate $4,300 to local food banks throughout Graham, Cochise, and Greenlee Counties in Arizona, and Luna and Hidalgo Counties in New Mexico. For those customers that chose animal shelters, Valley donated 2,100 pounds of cat food and 4,000 pounds of dog food to local animal shelters throughout these same counties,” said Lana Estes, Customer Relations manager, “We’re so proud to support our local communities.”

Now, more than ever, fast and reliable broadband internet is necessary to keep people connected to family, friends, and loved ones. The ability to work and learn from home has become an essential need as we face the challenges of living in a post-COVID world. Valley TeleCom is dedicated to ensuring easy and reliable access to internet and worry-free WiFi.

For more information, please contact Valley TeleCom Group at 800-421-5711.

About Valley TeleCom Group

Valley TeleCom Group is a local telecommunications company that provides high-speed Internet, phone and business solutions to southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico. They have offices in Animas, NM; Clifton, AZ; Safford, AZ; and Willcox, AZ and have been serving this area since 1962.

Many changes have occurred in the rural telecommunications industry in recent years and the Board of Directors has decided that the time is right to merge CVT into VTC. Once this merger is complete, all CVT customers will become patrons of VTC. Since VTC is a Cooperative, any profits generated are distributed to the patrons in the form of capital credits. After the merger, current CVT customers, now patrons of the Cooperative, will be eligible for capital credits from VTC for the first time. This merger will be very transparent to all customers and will not result in any rate changes or the appearance of your monthly bill.

Again, this will be a very transparent transaction to CVT and VTC customers and the new fiber construction that it will enable will be a tremendous benefit to customers in our serving area. We appreciate being your choice of
telecommunications service providers and if you have any questions, please feel free to contact our office at 1-800-421-5711.

About Valley TeleCom Group

Valley TeleCom Group is a local telecommunications company that provides high-speed Internet, phone and business solutions to southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico. They have offices in Animas, NM; Clifton, AZ; Safford, AZ; and Willcox, AZ and have been serving this area since 1962.

From now through mid-December, every time a new customer signs up for internet service, Valley TeleCom will donate $50.00 to support the local food bank or animal shelter, whichever cause the customer chooses. And, as a bonus, the new customer will receive a $50.00 credit on their bill. It’s a win-win arrangement that will donate money back into the parts of our local communities that need it most.

“There’s so much more we can do when we choose to work together,” said Jamie Wright, Customer Relations Supervisor. “During this season of magic, we’re reaching out and working with each new internet customer—to get them connected and to help them contribute to a greater good. It’s something we can do together to make great things happen in our communities.”

Now, more than ever, fast and reliable broadband internet is necessary to keep people connected to family, friends, and loved ones. The ability to work and learn from home has become an essential need as we face the challenges of living in a post-COVID world. Valley is dedicated to ensuring easy and reliable access to internet and worry-free WiFi—and to making sure each new connection contributes to the health of our local communities. For more information about the “Together, Let’s Create Some Magic” campaign, please contact Valley TeleCom Group at 800-421-5711.

About Valley TeleCom Group

Valley TeleCom Group is a local telecommunications company that provides high-speed Internet, phone and business solutions to southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico. They have offices in Animas, NM; Clifton, AZ; Safford, AZ; and Willcox, AZ and have been serving this area since 1962.

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