nDanville's Quiet Success in Rural Virginia

nDanville, the open access fiber-optic network operated by the City's public power company, has been quietly succeeding in southern Virginia. This network has already connected half of the communities health care facilities, allowing them to improve medical care with 100Mbps and gigabit circuits at affordable prices.

The medical network connects Danville Regional Medical Center and about half of the area’s medical facilities to nDanville, a fiber optic network established by the city. The high performance fiber allows real-time access to patient medical records and allows for the exchange of CT and MRI scans instantly.

Another article notes praise for the city's efforts:

"It enables us to better serve our patients by having their information available across multiple sites," Deaton [CEO of Danville Regional Medical Center] said. "We will continue to support the city's efforts in linking our medical community together, and I want to commend the city for the success of this network and making healthcare a top priority."

The Intelligent Community Forum brought the above success to my attention in awarding Danville a recipient of its 2011 Founders Awards. (Chattanooga is in the running for Intelligent Community of year and really, how could it possibly lose?) But ICF details more impressive details from nDanville:

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On average, fiber connections for these facilities provide twice the bandwidth of the previous connection but at a 30% savings. More than 90% of the medical facilities (approximately 125 locations) are to be connected by December  2011, said Jason Grey, the Broadband Network Manager of Danville Utilities, who led Danville’s charge to become a recognized intelligent community by ICF.

ICF further noted that the nDanville Network provides a crucial link between the Danville Diagnostic and Imaging Center and the Danville Regional Hospital. This high capacity connection allows the two facilities to exchange CT and MRI scans instantly, as well as other patient information, thus helping doctors do their job more effectively.

The project has impacted education as well. At the Danville Community College medical technician students train on new interactive systems which provide monitoring and feedback to accelerate learning. Training rooms have a sophisticated video system that allows instructors to record students training and to provide detailed critiques, thus combining the technological and the human art of healing.

Dentists are also taking advantage of the network, which has allowed one Dentist's group create new jobs by opening a fourth office.

This network has been available for businesses for a few years now and the city is really seeing the benefits. Officials say when it first became available, many businesses were interested, but then the economy hit a slump. Now that things are looking a little brighter, utilities officials say they expect many more businesses to sign up, expand and hopefully come to the area because of it.

It was the nDanville network that prompted Dr. Albert Payne to open his fourth dental office. He says multiple offices don't make sense if you can't keep them connected.

"I told them we wouldn't go out there if the network wasn't available for us," he said. "You want to have access to all the charts from all the different locations at one time."

But take note, the success of the network is not merely better health care and a few more jobs - it has changed the perception of Danville:

"I could see in five years everybody would be retired and there wouldn't be any dentists to work on anybody, so now, we've got some young people ready to go to work," said Dr. Payne.

He says young people have been impressed to see a small city like Danville big into technology.

logo-danville-utilities.pngThe network connects over 100 businesses and currently has a single ISP operating on it, a local business that is clearly getting the job done. But nDanville has spoken with a number of ISPs excited to come on the network as soon as it has more potential customers.

We most recently wrote about nDanville when it considered expanding the network to some residential areas last year. The City Council decided not to, but the utility is working with City Council to begin a less ambitious expansion that would not incur any debt.

For years, nDanville has been generating net income, some of which gets depositing in the City's General Fund and some of which goes into an unreserved fund balance that can be used to further expand the network (later generating more revenues, and the circle of life begins anew). Those decisions will be made over the course of the next month.