Goochland County yesterday announced progress toward extending broadband coverage to all of its residents and businesses.
The project is the result a parternship of Firefly Fiber Broadband, a wholly owned subsidiary of Central Virginia Electric Cooperative (CVEC), Dominion Energy and Rappahannock. Electric Cooperative (REC), along with the county.
“We are proud to partner with Goochland, Firefly and Dominion to bridge the digital divide in our rural communities,” said John Hewa, REC’s President and CEO. “REC is committed to improving the communities we serve, and bringing broadband to unserved and underserved areas is a critical step in that direction.”
Elected officials echoed that excitement.
Senator Mark Peake and Delegate Lee Ware joined Goochland officials and representatives from Firefly Fiber BroadbandSM, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Central Virginia Electric Cooperative, Dominion Energy, and Rappahannock Electric Cooperative to celebrate this initiative.
In a joint statement, Senator Mark Peake and Delegates John McGuire and Lee Ware said: “We applaud Goochland County and their partners’ efforts to bring needed broadband access to all of its citizens. Expanding this critical service will allow homes and businesses in the county to function in today’s digital world, and we are excited to see this partnership moving forward.”
Goochland officials reiterated their commitment to their partnership with Firefly Fiber BroadbandSM, Dominion Energy and REC.
“The investments announced today are exactly what Congress had in mind when we passed the American Rescue Plan as well as increased funding for the ReConnect Program,” said Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger. “As we look towards our nation’s economy recovery, now is the time to reinvest in our communities and close the digital divide once and for all. The recent announcement of ReConnect funding for Goochland as well as the county’s participation in Firefly’s RISE Project with support from funds provided through the American Rescue Plan is a tremendous step in that direction that will mean new jobs, economic growth, and innovation. I look forward to continuing to support the work of our localities to close the digital divide in Congress, and I applaud the work of all involved in these critical projects.”
Additionally, three announcements were made regarding broadband access in the county.
The first two announcements were related to fiber construction projects starting before year end. All CVEC members in Goochland will have access to internet from Firefly regardless of funding, but Shannon Hill residents learned yesterday that they will receive service faster than anticipated. The preliminary electric-make ready construction has been completed, and fiber construction will begin in the next few months.
In addition, Goochland officials announced that the ReConnect grant, won by Firefly with local matching fund support from Goochland, will jumpstart the fiber build in portions of the county later this year. The ReConnect grant project area build will be 100% underground. In total, these two construction projects will make gigabit speed internet service available to almost 3,400 residents of Goochland by passing almost 1,400 locations.
Goochland is one of 13 Central Virginia counties included in Firefly’s Regional Internet Service Expansion (RISE) project, a larger regional broadband initiative. As part of the project, Firefly and Goochland are seeking grant funds from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development through its Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI). If successful, those grant funds would be used to offset nearly 30% of the $17.5 million cost to build fiber in the county. The remaining 70% would be funded between Goochland and Firefly, with Goochland contributing up to $3,637,500 toward the project.
In a joint statement, Goochland County Board of Supervisors Susan Lascolette and Neil Spoonhower said: “Expansion of broadband access to all of our citizens has been the No. 1 priority for Goochland County. We are incredibly proud of this partnership that marks a major milestone in the county’s efforts to ensure reliable affordable high-speed broadband internet service for all households and businesses.”
Preliminary planning for this regional project has identified 2,765 locations in the county as being unserved without access to speeds of at least 25 mbps download and 3 mbps upload, and the initial design includes 276 miles of fiber-optic cable to be installed in the county to make service available to those locations. Goochland residents will receive further information about work once the schedule is set for the first phase of the fiber build.