Rappahannock Electric Cooperative
Work Underway to Expand Broadband to REC Member-Owners in Louisa
Louisa, VA. – Some Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC) member-owners in Louisa County are one step closer to having access to broadband internet service.
In June, REC began the make-ready engineering and design process for the fiber build in partnership with Firefly Fiber BroadbandSM. Authorized contractors from Pike Engineering are currently working in the Shannon Hill area conducting pole-by-pole surveys to determine what preparations are needed to existing facilities for the fiber installation.
“This is a significant milestone in the process to bring broadband to the REC service territory in Louisa County,” said John Hewa, REC president and CEO. “We look forward to completing work in these initial areas of the county and continuing to expand.”
Over the next several weeks, residents will see authorized contractors from Pike Engineering in the Shannon Hill area and possibly on their property. Once survey work is completed around Shannon Hill, Pike Engineering will move to the area of REC’s Mt. Hope substation off of Route 33 and Paynes Mill Road in the eastern end of Louisa County.
After field engineering is complete, make ready construction crews will move into the areas to make modifications to the poles and change some poles. Following the make ready construction, fiber construction will begin as the fiber optic cable is added to the electric facilities. After that step, splicing will take place and then service extensions will be added. The entire process will take six to eight months from the beginning of make ready engineering to the final connections inside homes.
“The construction of the fiber infrastructure takes some time, but the result is a long-term solution that will provide long term benefits to the electric system and provide internet access to REC members. We appreciate the patience of the members as we build this new state of the art network,” says Casey Hollins, REC spokesperson and managing director – communications and public relations.
As REC and Firefly continue to define the order of work throughout Louisa County, member-owners will be notified directly and updates will be provided. Some REC member-owners in the Shannon Hill and Mt. Hope areas can expect to receive notifications from Firefly near the end of 2021 inviting them to sign-up for service. “Firefly is excited that the work has begun to further expand access to gigabit speed fiber internet service in Louisa County. We recognize the need for reliable, affordable broadband service and we are happy to be working with REC to meet those needs for families and small businesses in Louisa County,” said Dennis Reece, General Manager of Firefly.
Serving as the cornerstone of the project in Louisa County, REC will own the fiber network constructed in the majority of the county. It is providing use of its infrastructure to Firefly, including poles, to make the Louisa County broadband initiative a reality.
Firefly is the internet service provider for the partnership and will ensure the availability of fiber broadband on a county-wide basis. Firefly will oversee construction of the REC-owned fiber in the REC service territory and then be responsible for network operation and fiber maintenance.
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
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, and YouTube.
Louisa County, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, Firefly Fiber Broadband, and Dominion Energy Proposed Partnership to Bring Broadband to Louisa County
Louisa, Va. – Efforts to provide broadband internet service in Louisa County took a leap forward when officials announced today a recently proposed partnership with the energy utilities serving the community. Bob Babyok, Chairman of the Louisa County Board of Supervisors, announced that Louisa County is finalizing a partnership with Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC), Firefly Fiber BroadbandSM, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Central Virginia Electric Cooperative, and Dominion Energy Virginia to ensure high-speed internet access is available to all of the homes and businesses in the County. Read More.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, the proposal ensures end-user access to broadband speeds via a fiber internet connection that will be deployed on a countywide basis.
What’s the timeline for deployment?
The parties will undertake a phased approach that will result in a petition to the State Corporation Commission for regulatory approval later in 2021.The first step will be to complete engineering studies to determine the most efficient deployment plan and finalize funding requirements. It is estimated that 50% of the County will have access by the end of 2023, 75% by the end of 2024. The project completion is slated by the end of 2025.
How will the effort be funded?
Funding is coming from several sources. Firefly participated and received federal funding for fiber deployment in Louisa through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund totaling roughly $6.9M over the next 10 years. The partners will also leverage future funding through the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) and other grant and funding sources. Finally, the County earmarked $15 million to incentivize the deployment of end-user fiber on a countywide basis. The funds will be used to prepare for construction and offset other project-related costs.
Why are public dollars being spent on this project?
Broadband deployment in rural areas has been an ongoing challenge across the nation. The most successful approach to this problem has involved leveraging partnerships and combining sources of funding to ensure financial viability where otherwise such might not exist.
Will this make my electric bill go up?
Under Virginia law, electric utility rates and bill payments cannot be used to subsidize broadband deployment.
Why use electric utilities?
These utilities typically already have infrastructure to every end user in the County. It is much more cost effective to use existing infrastructure.
Will the fiber be above ground or below?
It may be either, depending on existing infrastructure.
What will the plans cost?
Firefly intends to charge their current rates. Firefly Light offers 100 mbps for $49.99; Firefly Flash offers 1 gbps for $79.99; and Firefly Voice is $35.99 with a $5 discount when bundled with the internet. For more information, visit fireflyva.com.
Will there be any data caps, contracts or installation fees?
Firefly does not impose data caps, require contracts or charge an installation fee for customers who pre-register for service while fiber is being built in their area.
I have a long driveway. Will there be additional fees to install fiber to my property?
These details are still being discussed and additional details will be provided once they are finalized.
Will equipment be provided?
Firefly will provide the equipment needed for wireless internet in the home at no additional charge. The router provides a dual band Wi-Fi and maximum available bandwidth, with remote troubleshooting and upgrade capability. No lags and mesh technology ensures strong signal no matter where you are at home.
Who will provide and bill for the service?
Firefly will provide the connection, support and billing for the service.
What if I’m in an area that already has a fiber provider?
The goal of the partnership is to ensure that all of the homes and businesses in the county have access to fiber broadband service.
Those in the partnership will work cooperatively with landowners and customers to obtain the rights needed to complete this project. We will be sensitive to landowner concerns and will work within existing easements and rights of way. If someone is adamantly opposed to this effort, our intention is to find an alternate route as opposed to paying for new easements. This could cause delays to the project for everyone.
Where will the service be deployed first?
These details are still being discussed and additional details will be provided once they are finalized. However, deployment will branch outward from existing fiber connections and will be organized to maximize the efficiency of the total buildout.
When will I know service is available in my area?
Once the schedule is finalized, customers will be notified by mail so they are aware of the timeline for the fiber build and when to sign up for service. Customers will receive notification from Firefly when it is time to pre-register for service.
If it’s done in phases, how soon will the first residents benefit from this partnership?
CVEC, the parent company of Firefly, will continue its fiber build this year in Louisa, doubling the number of locations in the county. Work will begin to make the infrastructure ready in a pilot area of REC territory later this year, while the study for the rest of the county is being completed. The first connects in this pilot area will likely occur next year.
The County has constructed some existing fiber. Will that be used?
The partners are assessing the potential of using these and any other existing assets to maximize deployment efficiency.
Why does it take so long?
Several factors contribute to the timeline for overall deployment. A primary consideration that increases both time and cost are efforts to make the system ready for construction. These involve preparing existing power infrastructure to be able to carry additional lines in a manner that is safe to those around the infrastructure and which can efficiently accommodate any future repairs. The height of some power poles, for example, may need to be increased by replacing the poles. This allows fiber to be hung at a safe height below the power lines in order to accommodate repairs and necessary ground clearance. The fiber construction processes in each area can take anywhere from 12 to 18 months.
Why fiber and not other technologies?
Fiber represents a county-wide, cost-effective solution. Extensive studies indicate that fiber technology will be superior to other technologies both now and into the future. Fiber also offers an extremely high degree of reliability compared to alternatives.
My locality is interested in participating in a partnership like this. Who should I contact?
Please contact any of the partners for further details.
I have more questions, who do I contact?
For questions about internet service, speeds or pricing:
Firefly Fiber Broadband, fireflyva.com or 833-473-3591
For other localities, internet service providers or other third-parties interested in partnerships: