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Press Release: Sunset Helps Bring Federal Cool & Connected Program to Lee County, Virginia

August 24, 2016

(DUFFIELD, Va.)—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Sustainable Communities and the Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service and the Appalachian Regional Commission announced today that Jonesville and Pennington Gap, Virginia, will be part of a pilot program called Cool & Connected that uses broadband service to revitalize small-town main streets and promote economic development.

Sunset Digital’s economic development efforts, led by Tim Long, were instrumental in bringing the program to Lee County. Mr. Long heads Sunset’s Economic Development and Government Affairs division where he looks for ways private business and broadband expansion can assist local government in community improvements.

Mr. Long says that through the EPA’s Cool & Connected program, a team of experts will help town leaders in Jonesville and Pennington Gap develop strategies and an action plan for using Sunset’s existing broadband service to create walkable, connected, economically vibrant main streets.

“This investment from the federal government is only available where there is existing broadband,” explains Long. “We have actively sought government programs that can be economic drivers because of existing broadband. Lee County will be one of the first in the country to be a part of this program—Cool & Connected. And it’s only possible because Sunset Digital had previously invested in this community.”

The program will be a building block for the rural towns to bring more business and opportunities to the area, in essence “leveling the playing field” according to U.S. Senator Mark Warner.

“It is time for us to level the playing field for our rural communities by expanding access to broadband technology, which is key to connecting Virginians to jobs and economic opportunities in our increasingly digital economy,” says Senator Warner. He adds, “These grants represent a long-term investment in the vitality of the region, and I look forward to seeing the positive effects these funds will have in bridging the broadband gap in Southwest Virginia.”

Town leaders comment that the Cool & Connected Program will be an important economic engine for the region.

“We are so excited and want to thank the EPA and Sunset Digital for getting us involved in the Cool & Connected Program,” says Jonesville Mayor Jim Ewing.

Larry Holbrook, the mayor of Pennington Gap, adds, “The technology this will bring to our downtown will not only help in sustaining the businesses we have, but will be a tool in promoting new businesses in our town.”

Being an economic driver for Southwest Virginia has always been the mission of Sunset Digital. “I believe this is the start of many more opportunities to come,” says Vice President and COO of Sunset Digital Communications Ryan Elswick. “Having broadband in your community is just the first step to life-changing economic viability for rural towns in Southwest Virginia. And once our purchase of BVU’s Optinet is complete, we hope to bring similar opportunities to other parts of the region.”

Pennington Gap and Jonesville were two of 10 coal-impacted communities in six states that will participate in the Cool & Connected planning assistance program. The program for Jonesville and Pennington Gap will begin in September, according to the EPA.

About Sunset Digital Communications

Sunset Digital designs, constructs and operates next-generation Fiber-to-the-Premises networks that provide private connectivity, Internet and entertainment services to business, educational and residential customers in Tennessee and Virginia. As a Tier II Internet provider that seeks to improve the communities it serves, Sunset also direct-peers with all major Internet content providers and hosts content servers locally for full and fast data availability. Sunset’s Converged Packet Optical network carries the majority of the regional bandwidth for carriers and retail customers alike, providing continuous scalability and high availability at a low cost. Sunset’s network spans over 2,000 miles and delivers Internet for over 80,000 people. For more information, visit www.sunset-fiber.com.

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