Following only three short years, Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative, along with its wholly owned subsidiary, EMPOWER Broadband, is pleased to announce it has met its obligation in the Connect America Fund II Auction to fully deploy fiber-to-the-premises in south-central and southwest Brunswick County, which includes the communities of Ante, Gasburg, Powellton, Triplet, Valentines and Wyche. The CAF-II regulations allow their projects up to six years to complete.
To meet its obligation of 100% deployment by 2025, MEC sought and received funding from the USDA ReConnect program in the amount of $3.8 million to not only meet the broadband needs of this rural community but to accelerate the deployment.
“Many of the residents, businesses, community organizations, and facilities in the communities we serve reached out to MEC with a desperate plea for broadband deployment in this area, and as is the cooperative’s tradition, we did our best to meet the needs of our Membership,” stated President and CEO of MEC and EMPOWER Broadband, John C. Lee. “Deploying fiber to this portion of our service territory was no small feat due to low population density and extensive construction areas, and yet, we completed the commitment in one-half the time allowed. Needless to say, I’m very proud of our team whose hard work and dedication to our Members allowed those in these communities access to world-class broadband as soon as possible.”
Approximately 844 premises were passed during this expansion, with new customers taking advantage of the world-class fiber network offering. The number of subscribers to the service continues to grow daily. Having a true, high-speed fiber network running through this community allows customers the ability to work from home, participate in online learning, or simply stream on-demand television services, enabling residents to “cut the cord” from their wireless providers and save money.
Daniel Wright, chief at Triplet Volunteer Fire Department, where representatives from the USDA announced the expansion in 2019, shared his enthusiasm of having access to world-class internet at the fire department.
“From entering call data into the National Fire Incident Reporting System to applying for grant funding online, EMPOWER’s service has made a huge difference in our abilities to report our activities in a timely manner. Our station also serves as a Wi-Fi hub for our community offering service to those who may not yet have access to reliable broadband,” he said.
“Additionally, training for our volunteers is now more readily available since we can stream online classes directly to our Smart television at the station. The benefits this Broadband service affords us are amazing! I’ve heard from many residents in our community raving about their new capabilities.”
This project is one of many that Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative, in partnership with EMPOWER Broadband, has underway to address the digital divide in our rural communities and afford our rural residents the same opportunities as those living in suburban Virginia. For more information on current projects, or to check availability in your area, visit empowermec.net.
–Report by Dolores Cabaniss, Public Relations Specialist, Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative.