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Coop offers broadband incentive

Central Virginia Electric Cooperative (CVEC) has announced a rural broadband initiative designed to incentivize qualified entities to deliver service throughout its 14-county electric distribution territory.

According to a press release, the cooperative is seeking to “partner with a proven, committed entity or consortium of entities to make affordable Giga-bit-class broadband available to all CVEC members. …”

The cooperative has offered to waive annual pole attachment fees, which totaled $1.2 million in 2016 with expected increases over time, in exchange for the deployment of a fiber-based broadband network that provides a minimum of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download speed with no cap on data usage to any of the 36,000 CVEC member service locations.

“Without affordable, reliable broadband communication services, rural residents are being shut off from advancements in technology that would provide jobs, better education and a higher quality of life,” said CVEC President and CEO Gary Wood.

“When CVEC was first formed in 1937, the members came together to share the cost to extend distribution lines and make central station electric service available to every home. Now, the members are willing to join together to offer this incentive.”

In the release, the Wood compared the lack of rural broadband to a time when nine out of 10 farms in Virginia lacked electricity.

“Fifty years after Richmond residents first began to enjoy electric service, their country cousins were still using fire to heat and light their homes, cook food and wash and iron clothes. The formation of member-owned electric cooperatives effectively resolved the basic disparities in economic opportunity and in quality of life. Today, the cooperative will do all that it can to recruit a working partner in order to close the digital divide, for the benefit of our members-owners and our rural communities.”

In addition to targeting universal service for its members, CVEC envisions contracting for broadband connectivity to its offices, electric substations and down line equipment to enhance control and reliability of the 4,500- mile electric distribution system.

Interested broadband providers are asked to view the request for information at www. mycvec.com and should submit a letter of intent to respond to the RFI by Sept. 2.