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Broadband project moves ahead

SoVaNow.com / September 09, 2021
The Southside Planning District Commission has chosen EMPOWER Broadband to build a fiber optic network providing high-speed internet to homes and businesses in Halifax, Mecklenburg and Brunswick counties.

The SSPDC issued a request-for-proposal for a regional fiber network that it estimates will cost some $150 million to build out in the three counties, which together comprise the SSPDC’s service area. After reviewing the proposals, the commission awarded the contract to EMPOWER, a subsidiary of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative.

ED-6 supervisor Stanley Brandon, chairman of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors’ broadband committee, said “by far I feel they [EMPOWER] are the strongest candidate” for the project, in part based on the company’s prior work laying fiber optic lines in the three counties. Brandon is the board representative to the SSPDC, which is based in South Hill.

To fund construction of the three-county network, the SSPDC will seek grant money from the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI), which has received an influx of cash through federal pandemic relief funding.

The VATI fund is flush with cash after Gov. Ralph Northam announced in July a $700 million plan to achieve universal broadband access in Virginia by 2024. As its August special session, the General Assembly approved the broadband allocation, drawing from $4.3 billion dollars that Virginia has received in federal coronavirus funding under the American Rescue Plan, passed by the Biden Administration.

The size of the SSPDC grant request for EMPOWER was not immediately available. EMPOWER will invest its own funds in the regional network, expanding on its existing service in the three counties. EMPOWER’s minimum broadband package, featuring upload and download speeds that exceed other hard-wired and wireless options, starts at $69.99 per month, with more expensive options for heavy-duty residential and commercial customers.

The VATI broadband grant applications are due in next Tuesday, Sept. 14. Projects are required to demonstrate how door-to-door access will be done by the 2024 target date.

“This will be universal coverage for the entire county,” said County Administration Scott Simpson, who added that full details of the grant application are not currently ready for release.



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Mr Simpson, Mr Brandon, what are the deliverables and timeline sthat this fiber optic and all broadband will begin to "arrive". what is the timeline??


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