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Firefly receives $14.1 million for broadband

Firefly Fiber Broadband, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Central Virginia Electric Cooperative (CVEC), received $14.1 million in funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Reconnect Program.

The announcement was made recently by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Firefly applied to USDA for the 100% grant option. The funds will be used to offset the cost of the $18.8 million fiber-to-the-home  (FTTH) build across parts of Buckingham, Cumberland, Goochland, Louisa and Powhatan counties.

The funded service area includes 37 educational facilities, three health care facilities, 14  essential community facilities, 4,139 households, 13,886 people, 193 businesses and 65 farms spread over 65 square miles. These rural Virginia residents will have access to Firefly’s symmetrical broadband speeds of up to one gigabit per second with no data caps or contracts. Firefly will also offer business and residential phone service.  Reliable and affordable internet for these community staples will improve the lives of thousands of residents. Construction is slated to begin later this year after completion of a final environmental review.

New connections in the project area will begin approximately six months after the start of construction. The full project is anticipated to take two years of construction.

“We want to help address the lack of reliable, high-speed internet across as much of Central Virginia as possible. The pandemic created even more of a digital divide for rural residents who needed the internet to work from home, remote learning and attend doctor appointments virtually to avoid COVID exposure. This grant from the USDA will help us to spread our wings in areas where Firefly has not previously been available. We extend our sincere appreciation to these five county boards of supervisors and their staff as well as Senator Mark Warner, Senator Tim Kaine and Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger for their assistance with and support of this application,” Firefly President Gary Wood said.

Firefly’s Regional Internet Service Expansion (RISE) Project was launched this year to expand broadband to parts of 12 counties, partnering with other area utilities to complete the fiber build.

Firefly is also the internet service provider (ISP) for the CVEC fiber build, a $130 million plan to install more than 4,500 miles of fiber-optic cable in the 14 counties it serves, providing broadband internet access to all of its 38,000 members. The fiber network will be constructed by the end of 2022 and uses laser beams and glass fibers to move data at speeds of up to one gigabit per second, delivering world-class communications to CVEC members served in their electric territory. The fiber-optic network will be installed on and adjacent to existing overhead and underground electric distribution lines, utilizing the existing infrastructure. Firefly is approaching a milestone of connecting 10,000 customers next month. For more information about areas included in this build and for pricing on internet and phone packages, visit www.fireflyva.com.