(Chase City) - EMPOWER Broadband, a subsidiary of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC), is committed to extending fiber-to-the-premise access for internet connections across Southside Virginia and, most recently, is fulfilling that mission through a partnership with Mecklenburg County. In 2018, EMPOWER, sponsored by Mecklenburg County, was awarded a Tobacco Commission grant to build a 135-mile fiber backbone across southern Virginia and through Mecklenburg County. Accordingly, EMPOWER’s strategic plan designates the utilization of this backbone to extend critical broadband service deeper into our rural communities. In recognition of the urgent need to connect additional residents, EMPOWER Broadband and the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors have agreed on an expansion project to reach additional rural homes in the County.
In this strong partnership with Mecklenburg County, CARES Act funding will be allocated for the rapid deployment of fiber broadband that will help mitigate COVID challenges resulting from limited internet availability. The CARES funds carry a requirement that the services they are utilized to support be made available within calendar year 2020. EMPOWER has developed an aggressive plan that will result in the deployment of 15 miles of fiber optic cable that will provide high-speed internet access to more than 400 homes and businesses, providing those residents with an option to address the challenges presented by remote learning and tele-work.
John C. Lee, Jr., CEO for EMPOWER Broadband commented, “EMPOWER is proud to again partner with Mecklenburg County officials who share our mission of closing the digital divide by providing county residents and businesses access to reliable and consistent high-speed internet service…and doing so as soon as possible. The pandemic has only intensified the growingly critical nature of this desperately needed service and this project will connect homes and businesses as well as create Wi-Fi hotspots for students and remote workers in multiple areas across the county. EMPOWER is adding additional crews and resources to accommodate the deadline associated with this project and do so without disrupting our continued focus on areas already slated for deployment… we’re focused on meeting the needs of rural residents and delivering broadband to our rural areas as quickly as possible…and every day, we’re doing just that.”
These expedited projects will provide fiber connections in four areas: Highway 58 from the intersection of Baskerville Road to Prison Road in Boydton, portions of Nellie Jones Road, Rideout Road, and Coles Lane in Bracey, portions of Reed Road and Marengo Road in La Crosse, and portions of Old Cox Road and Allgoods Lane in Chase City to Easters Road in Boydton.
Lee continued, “This partnership represents the best in community leaders working together with a caring corporate entity to meet the educational, employment and economic development needs of the areas and residents we collectively serve. We applaud this dedicated effort by the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors and County Staff who are working diligently to make broadband a reality for all their citizens, and our rural members, rest assured, they are fully committed to making it happen…and so are we.”
Mecklenburg County Administrator, Wayne Carter, stated “As we prioritized the needs citizens experienced during COVID-19, we recognized the tremendous impact on students who lacked adequate access to internet. CARES funding offered a solution to ease that impact by rapidly expanding internet to additional homes and businesses. Once again, we turned to our partner EMPOWER Broadband whose expanding network is delivering high-speed internet through fiber-to-the-home across our County. Together, we’re accomplishing the shared goal of meeting this critical need for our communities.”
These areas designated for CARES funds are now open for registration at www.empowermec.net; interested residents are encouraged to access the website and click on the box beneath “Check Availability and Register Your Interest” to begin the process. Additionally, EMPOWER Broadband will be sending letters to those within the eligible area. Remember, residents should sign up immediately and encourage their neighbors to do the same so EMPOWER can get you connected during the grant period.
MEC’s subsidiary, EMPOWER Broadband, Inc., provides middle-mile capacity, retail high-speed internet service, as well as voice over IP telephony, high-speed data services, and advanced cloud-based solutions, to over 4,000 accounts in the cooperative’s service territory in Southside Virginia and northern North Carolina. For more information, please visit www.empowermec.net.