Powhatan County continues to make strong progress toward extending broadband coverage to all its residents and businesses. Today, Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, Senator Ghazala Hashmi, and Delegate Lee Ware joined Powhatan officials and representatives from Dominion Energy and Firefly Fiber BroadbandSM, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Central Virginia Electric Cooperative, celebrated this initiative.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw how a lack of reliable access to high-speed internet puts Central Virginia families, students, small businesses, and farms at a competitive disadvantage. To close this digital divide, we need to work across all levels of government — from the federal level to the county level — to make smart, responsible investments in expanded broadband internet connectivity. I am proud to join community and business leaders in Powhatan to mark these important milestones.”
Senator Ghazala Hashmi stated “Access to broadband and, most especially, to high-speed internet, is as essential now as access to electricity was a century ago. Our education systems rely on such access, and both small and large businesses cannot function without the full availability of digital tools and resources. The partnership between Firefly and Dominion Energy ensures that vital commerce, communication, healthcare, and education opportunities are accessible to all residents in Powhatan.”
Delegate Lee Ware stated “Expanding broadband to rural and even some suburban areas has been among my top priorities as a legislator for many years. To see leading utilities of the private sector and government form an alliance, enabled by $800 million in taxpayer dollars, is a highlight of my years of public service. I commend our Board of Supervisors members and their staff for their own initiatives in making the imminent expansion of broadband in Powhatan a possibility.”
On Monday, August 23, 2021, The Powhatan County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a partnership with Firefly Fiber Broadband SM and Dominion Energy to provide broadband to unserved areas within Powhatan County. Powhatan is one of thirteen central Virginia counties included in a larger regional broadband initiative. As part of the project, Firefly and Powhatan are seeking grant funds from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development through its Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI). If successful, VATI grant funds would be used to offset nearly 30% of the cost for Firefly to build fiber in the county. The remaining 70% would be funded between Powhatan County and Firefly, with Powhatan contributing up to $3,024,000 towards the project.
Powhatan County Board Chair Karin Carmack stated “Our Board of Supervisors continued focus on Countywide broadband has culminated in this exciting partnership with Firefly, the Commonwealth, and Dominion Energy. Our citizens will look back on this partnership as one of the key quality of life success stories in recent Powhatan history.”
“Broadband has quickly become an essential utility, much like electricity,” adds Gary Wood, Firefly president and chief executive officer. “Firefly is excited to partner with Dominion Energy and Powhatan County in this project to bring universal broadband access to Powhatan County with a fiber-to-the-home network that will bring world class internet service to unserved locations.”
“Broadband access supports education, equity and economic development and is a necessity, not a luxury,” said Diane Leopold, Dominion Energy’s chief operating officer. “We are proud to work with Powhatan County and Firefly to be part of the solution to bring this critical resource to the communities we serve.”
Preliminary planning for the regional project has identified 2,016 locations in the county as being unserved without access to speeds faster than 25 mbps download and 3 mbps upload, and the preliminary design includes 192 miles of fiber optic cable to be installed in the county to make service available to those locations. Powhatan residents will receive further information about work once the schedule is set for the first phase of the fiber build.
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. For this project, Firefly will lease the “middle-mile” fiber installed by Dominion Energy in the company’s electric service area in Powhatan. The project partners are working toward a phased approach; for Dominion Energy Virginia that will include an application to the State Corporation Commission (SCC) to seek regulatory approval. The SCC has already approved three of the Company’s rural broadband projects – in Botetourt and Surry Counties and on Virginia’s Northern Neck.