New River Valley Pioneered Online Communities in the 1990s

Date:  December 15, 2016

New River Valley Economic Development Alliance

 Photo Credit: Virginia Tech/Jim Stroup

 New River Valley, VA – Did you know that Wade’s Supermarkets, a local New River Valley grocery chain, pioneered online grocery shopping decades before AmazonFresh?

Or that Montgomery County Public Schools were the first in the nation to be 100% connected to the internet?

At a time when the internet was in its infancy, the Town of Blacksburg piloted a revolutionary new community internet network—the Blacksburg Electronic Village (BEV)—that defined the way New River Valley businesses operate and innovate today.

In 1991, the Town of Blacksburg and Bell Atlantic’s subsidiary, Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone, partnered to create a groundbreaking online network to connect New River Valley communities together.  The resulting BEV allowed for companies, organizations, and individuals to create webpages, promote e-commerce, operate list-serves, participate in chat rooms, and even join a mentoring program for local middle and high school students.

With over 87% of Blacksburg residents wired through dial-up and Ethernet connections and 100% of Montgomery County Public Schools directly connected to the internet, BEV resulted in the Guinness Book of World Records dubbing the region as the “Most Wired Community” in 1998.

Though the landscape of the internet has changed over the past twenty years, BEV’s contribution to connecting the New River Valley to the wider world is still felt today.  Several startups resulted from the network’s online commerce and connectivity, and the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center’s high speed Ethernet connection allowed for innovation and job creation at the research park which now hosts over 180 research, technology, and support companies.

While dial-up internet and chat rooms seem like ancient history, BEV redefined what community meant in the New River Valley and helped pave the way for today’s ever-present social media.

To read more about the Blacksburg Electronic Village’s history and influence in the New River Valley, visit The Verge’s What Happened to the Most-Wired Town of the 1990s?

About Us:

Virginia’s New River Valley is a vibrant community that’s home to two state universities, Virginia Tech and Radford University, and a diverse industry base ranging from large international corporations to small technology startups. The region is designated the Blacksburg-Christiansburg Radford Metropolitan Statistical Area and encompasses the counties of Floyd, Giles, Montgomery, Pulaski and the city of Radford.

The New River Valley Economic Development Alliance is a public/private, not-for-profit organization whose mission is to market the New River Valley, to foster job creation, facilitate new investment and to improve the quality of life in the region.