Firefly fiber internet project moves forward in Cumberland County

Published 9:13 am Thursday, December 28, 2023

By the end of 2026, the goal is to have at least 99% of Cumberland County accessible by fiber internet. In order to do that, Cumberland supervisors are applying for a grant to help cover the last portion of the area. 

As it stands, the majority of the county’s northern portion is covered. The Central Virginia Electrical Cooperative finished work earlier this year and as of this fall, residents around Cartersville and Columbia have been able to get connected. The same goes for the section covered by Dominion Energy, which also finished this fall. That left most of the northern and part of the central portions of the county covered. The remaining northern areas and some in the central section should be finished within the next 18 to 24 months. Now it’s time to finish the central portion and work on covering southern Cumberland as well. 

To do that, Firefly Fiber Broadband has applied for a grant from the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative. In order to help make that happen, Cumberland supervisors agreed to approve a letter of support, promising a $250,000 contribution to the project if the grant is approved. 

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“The Board of Supervisors embraces collaboration and we are proud to show our

commitment to our partners and our residents as we seek to complete the installation of

this much needed infrastructure,” said Cumberland Supervisors Chairman Brian Stanley. “Everyone benefits from this – education, public safety, those working from home – we all win.” 

What’s slowed fiber internet project? 

Part of that work’s been slowed down because instead of laying new lines, some work crews for Firefly are having to repair older ones damaged by hunters. It’s gotten so bad that in mid-November, Firefly put out a request, asking hunters not to shoot at animals near power lines. 

In multiple incidents, Firefly Fiber officials said hunters attempted to shoot doves perched on or near a power line. They missed, hitting the fiber optic casing instead. During the first segment of dove season, which ran from Sept. 2 to Oct. 22, Firefly officials say their fiber optic cable was damaged in Cumberland, as well as Appomattox, Buckingham, Powhatan, Prince Edward and parts of Lunenburg counties. 

The problem is that the new fiber optic cables were set up on electric poles, running adjacent to and underneath the electric lines. The actual optical fibers are protected by glass tubing, which shatters on impact when shot and disrupts both internet and phone. And so, as the second segment of dove season opened on Saturday, Nov. 18, Firefly officials asked hunters to avoid targeting the lines. 

When the work is finished, an estimated 99% of Cumberland County will have access to fiber internet. County and Firefly officials hope to make this happen by the end of 2026.