Regional Internet Service Expansion (RISE) Project
Update: October 2021
The RISE project continues to gain momentum in 13 counties in Central Virginia as Firefly partners with county leaders and electric utilities in Albemarle, Amherst, Appomattox, Buckingham, Campbell, Cumberland, Fluvanna, Goochland, Greene, Louisa, Madison, Nelson, and Powhatan counties to realize their goal of providing gigabit-speed fiber internet to all underserved homes and businesses.
The pandemic has highlighted the need for internet in homes and businesses and these partnerships will further the goal for counties in Central Virginia to access to reliable, high-speed internet, thus closing the digital divide and meeting the needs for digital equity. Many urban households have had the benefit of access to broadband for over a decade, while its rural neighbors struggle to achieve remote learning and working, higher education, telemedicine, business expansion, and to engage with the outside world for entertainment and news.
In partnership with Dominion Energy Virginia, Rappahannock Electric, and the 13 counties listed above, Firefly is seeking Virginia state grant funding to help support the $300 million project. Results of the award application will be announced in December 2021 and, if successful, funding will be dispersed monthly, beginning in Spring 2022, to connect homes and businesses in unserved areas who meet do not currently have 25/3 available. Residents within these counties who do not fall under the RISE Project area may be eligible to receive service as Firefly continues to expand its footprint.
The RISE project build will take approximately three years and will include 5,000 miles of fiber construction and 45,000 passings.
Firefly understands the scope of this project may impact thousands of Virginians who want and need a faster, more reliable, internet connection. Stay apprised of the latest updates to this project by visiting our RISE Project page at: https://www.fireflyva.com/rise/.
More than 25,000 Central Virginians Could Get Broadband Access Through Regional Broadband Partnership
Dominion Energy Virginia, Firefly Fiber BroadbandSM, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Central Virginia Electric Cooperative, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative and the Counties of Albemarle, Appomattox, Buckingham, Cumberland, Fluvanna, Goochland, Greene, Louisa, and Powhatan have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to advance a regional broadband partnership that aims to deliver fiber-optic broadband service to unserved and underserved households and businesses in areas of Central Virginia, subject to regulatory approvals. This partnership is enabled by bi-partisan legislation adopted during the 2021 General Assembly Session.
The agreement could extend access to more than 25,000 Virginians who currently lack access to reliable broadband services.
“This partnership marks a major step forward in ensuring that the communities we serve have access to quality, high speed internet that is critical to allowing homes, businesses and educational institutions to function in today’s digital world,” said Ed Baine, president of Dominion Energy Virginia. “We are excited to work with Firefly Fiber Broadband, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative and each participating county to help support the expansion of this critical service.”
Gary Wood, president and CEO of Firefly states that Firefly is pleased to expand its footprint in Central Virginia and to partner with Dominion Energy Virginia and Rappahannock Electric to find solutions for the most underserved rural areas. “The County Administrators and Board of Supervisors should be applauded for their efforts to secure reliable, high-speed internet to their entire counties. Firefly is eager to spread its wings and light up households and businesses with reliable and affordable fiber broadband through the Regional Internet Service Expansion (RISE) project.”
“At Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, our goal is to be part of the solution to facilitate broadband to the households and businesses we serve,” said John Hewa, president and CEO of Rappahannock Electric Cooperative. “Being able to partner on this endeavor with several counties where we serve electric members – along with Firefly Broadband and Dominion Energy Virginia is a major advancement allowing each of us to seek to further the Commonwealth’s goals of making broadband access available to everyone.”
Rappahannock Electric Cooperative will own a fiber network where it delivers electricity in the counties of Louisa, Albemarle, Goochland and Greene Counties where it delivers electricity. Firefly will serve as the internet service provider. This project will also improve reliability and resiliency while modernizing the grid to provide advanced energy solutions.
Dominion Energy is installing fiber in rural areas as it moves forward with efforts to transform Virginia’s energy grid. This fiber capacity can be used for operational needs as well as broadband access, reducing broadband deployment costs for internet service providers. Under the agreement, Firefly will lease the “middle-mile” fiber installed by Dominion Energy in the company’s electric service area in these nine counties.
Dominion Energy, Firefly Fiber BroadbandSM, and Rappahannock Electric Cooperative and each participating county will work toward a phased approach; for Dominion Energy Virginia that will include an application to the State Corporation Commission to seek regulatory approval in early 2022. The first phase will include engineering studies which will determine the most efficient deployment plan and funding requirements.
How to Be Sure Your Home or Business is Included:
The project is intended to cover all possible locations in these nine counties that do not have access to broadband meeting the minimum qualifying service speeds that the Commonwealth of Virginia has established which are 25 mbps download and 3 mbps upload from a fixed wireless or wired connection. If you only have access to satellite or cell phone for internet service, you are considered unserved. If you have connections to a fixed wireless service or have DSL or other phone service and your speeds do not reliably meet the 25/3 threshold, you are considered unserved. We need your help in defining the final unserved area map. Please visit www.fireflyva.com/rise by September 7 from your home computer using your home internet connection and follow the link to complete a short survey providing your address and what internet service options you have. If you have fixed wireless or wired internet service, we will also ask that you run a speed test once you have completed the survey; satellite or cell phone services will not be required to run the speed test.
About Dominion Energy
More than 7 million customers in 16 states energize their homes and businesses with electricity or natural gas from Dominion Energy (NYSE: D), headquartered in Richmond, Va. The company is committed to sustainable, reliable, affordable and safe energy and to achieving net zero carbon dioxide and methane emissions from its power generation and gas infrastructure operations by 2050. Please visit DominionEnergy.com to learn more.
About Firefly Fiber Broadband
Headquartered in Palmyra, VA, Firefly Fiber BroadbandSM is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Central Virginia Electric Cooperative. Firefly offers lightning-fast internet via fiber to the premise that is reliable and priced fairly with no hidden equipment costs or special introductory pricing that increases the base cost of phone or internet later. Firefly has no contracts, no data caps or slowdowns and offers symmetrical upload and download speeds. Firefly Light offers 100 mbps for $49.99; Firefly Flash offers 1 gbps for $79.99; and Firefly Voice is $34.99 with a $5.00 discount when bundled with the internet. For more information, visit www.fireflyva.com
About Rappahannock Electric Cooperative
REC provides electric service to over 170,000 connections in parts of 22 Virginia counties. With its general office in Fredericksburg, Va., the Cooperative operates and maintains more than 17,000 miles of power lines through its service area, which ranges from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the tidal waters of the Chesapeake Bay. For more information about REC, please visit www.myrec.coop. Follow REC on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.