Electric cooperatives in Virginia are continuing to transform connectivity in the state’s rural communities. With funding assistance from state and local government, projects in Mecklenburg and Appomattox Counties will soon be moving forward.
Building Out Mecklenburg
The Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission (TRCC) was formed when the state, along with Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Texas, chose to break off from a Master Settlement Agreement between the largest tobacco companies and the remaining 46 states. The proceeds from their separate settlement have been used for broadband and other projects to diversify the economy. The TRCC administers grants and a loan fund.
Last fall, the Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC) announced that they planned to upgrade their fiber optic network infrastructure to connect substations and district offices. The board of directors decided that the upgrade would give them the perfect opportunity to engage in a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) pilot project. As part of the project, MEC entered into an agreement to use the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC) fiber backbone.
The cooperative applied for a grant from TRRC and recently learned that they've been awarded $2.6 million for the $5.2 million project. They've dubbed the initiative the EmPower Broadband Cooperative.
EmPower will begin by offering 50 Megabits per second (Mbps) symmetrical Internet service for approximately $65 - $75 per month; VoIP will also be available. Members within 1,000 feet of the backbone that MEC deploys will have the ability to sign up for the service. Like other pilot projects, MEC will use the opportunity to fine tune the service and gage interest before they decide whether or not to take EmPower to the rest of their electric service area and possibly beyond.
Electric cooperatives are, far and away, the best positioned entities to bring ultra-high-speed broadband to the unserved or underserved rural areas of the Commonwealth, and MEC has...