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.

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.

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.

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.

Valley Telephone Cooperative’s Board President, David Thompson said “We are so pleased to be able to provide scholarships in our communities to worthy students who invest in their future through higher education”. Since 2003, Valley Telephone Cooperatives Foundation has awarded over $1.4 million in scholarships and we look forward to continuing this program”.

Scholarship recipients were recognized at Valley Telephone Cooperative’s Annual Meeting on May 4, 2019 in San Simon, AZ.

Valley Telephone Cooperative’s CEO, Steve Metts said “The Board of Directors is pleased to be able to provide financial resources to our area’s worthy students who intend to invest in their future through higher education”. Since 2003, Valley Telephone Cooperative Foundation and Copper Valley Telephone have awarded $1.3 million in scholarships and we look forward to continuing this program in the future.

About Valley Telephone Cooperative
Valley Telephone Cooperative is a local telecommunications company that provides local phone, long distance, highspeed internet and digital cable television to many residents in Southeastern AZ and Southwestern NM. They have been serving this area since 1962.

Valley Telephone Cooperative’s CEO, Steve Metts said “The Board of Directors is pleased to be able to provide financial resources to our area’s worthy students who intend to invest in their future through higher education”. Since 2003, Valley Telephone Cooperative Foundation and Copper Valley Telephone have awarded $1.2 million in scholarships and we look forward to continuing this program in the future.

About Valley Telephone Cooperative – Valley Telephone Cooperative is a local telecommunications company that provides local phone, long distance, high-speed Internet and digital cable television to many residents in Southeastern AZ and Southwestern NM since 1962.

Valley TeleCom Group's representatives spoke about the importance of broadband for rural business development and growth and also the ways that broadband brings education, public safety, telemedicine and other opportunities to rural consumers. Mr. Metts and Mr. Thompson provided an overview of its service area in Arizona and New Mexico to highlight the types of services it provides to both consumers and businesses in this region as well as pointing to the number of jobs their company provides in these two states and other services that contribute to the area's economic development.

Valley TeleCom Group's representatives urged their congressional delegates to help them continue to provide the services their community needs at an affordable rate by removing regulatory uncertainty and urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reconsider the deep cuts and other extreme modifications it is proposing to impose on the Universal Service Fund (USF). Valley's representatives explained that cuts to this important fund could put existing investment in rural broadband at risk and discourage future investment in new broadband-capable networks by small companies such as Valley, leading to increased rates for telephone, broadband and other services Mr. Metts and Mr. Thompson were in Washington to participate in the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association's Legislative & Policy Conference, March 19-21. More than 500 rural telecom representatives from all over the country gathered in the nation's capital for educational briefings about emerging rules and regulations and other industry issues. They also took part in visits to policymakers on Capitol Hill and the FCC.

About Valley Telephone Cooperative
Valley Telephone Cooperative is a local telecommunications company that provides local phone, long distance, highspeed internet and digital cable television to many residents in Southeastern AZ and Southwestern NM. They have been serving this area since 1962.

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