Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission
30-Day Public Comment Period
Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative’s EMPOWER Fiber Broadband Project
On March 8, 2018, the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission (Tobacco Commission) awarded a grant of $2.6 million dollars to Mecklenburg County and co-applicant Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC) to assist MEC in the design and construction of a broadband project serving portions of the Southside Virginia counties of Brunswick, Charlotte, Greensville, Halifax, Mecklenburg, and Pittsylvania at a total estimated cost of $5.2 million dollars. This pilot project is intended to be the initial phase of a multi-phase offering of retail broadband service across MEC’s service area.
MEC’s Fiber Communication Deployment Project will encompass three backbone segments. The Western Segment will deploy 47 miles of new optical fiber backbone primarily connecting MEC’s Gretna office to its Chase City office and seven substations generally along sections of Highways 40, 501, and 92. Accordingly, this segment will pass MEC members in portions of Pittsylvania, Halifax, Charlotte and Mecklenburg counties. Subsequently, the Central Segment will provide 42 miles of fiber allowing the cooperative to connect its Chase City office to its Ebony Substation crossing portions of Mecklenburg and Brunswick County generally along sections of Highways 92, 1, and 903. Lastly, the Eastern Segment will deploy 46 miles of fiber to connect MEC’s Ebony Substation to the Emporia office generally along sections of Highways 627 and 633 crossing portions of Brunswick and Greensville counties. Collectively, these three segments will pass within 1,000 feet of 2,910 homes and businesses with a total of 135 miles of new fiber backbone.
Grant funds from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission will then cover the costs of a Fiber-To-The-Premises (FTTP) project administered by MEC’s wholly owned subsidiary, EMPOWER Broadband, for those homes and businesses within 1,000 feet of the aforementioned fiber backbone. Retail fiber facilities will be deployed following the existing power lines to premises whether overhead, or underground, to serve customers utilizing the matching $2.6 million from the Tobacco Commission.
EMPOWER will lease fiber capacity from MEC and provide retail internet services. An entry level package of 50Mbps, and additional package offerings up to 1Gbps, will be offered to EMPOWER customers.
Design, construction, and deployment of the backbone is underway with EMPOWER’s first customers being connected no later than September of 2018. As construction begins in each area, MEC will provide specific information regarding service availability dates and information on how to subscribe to this new service. More information will also be forthcoming on future phases undertaken by EMPOWER Broadband.
Mecklenburg County and MEC invite the public to offer any comments on the project over the next 30 days, including whether any other provider is currently offering broadband service in the project area. Comments will be received by email through Saturday, August 11, 2018, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments may also be mailed to MEC/EMPOWER Broadband Comments, Attn: Wayne Carter, Mecklenburg County Administrator, P.O. Box 307, Boydton, Virginia 23917 or hand-delivered to the Mecklenburg County Administration Building, 350 Washington Street, Boydton, Virginia, during normal work hours of 8:00 am - 5:00 pm Monday-Friday.