In late 2021, state officials announced the award of a $69 million Virginia Telecommunication Initiative grant to the Southside Planning District Commission and Empower Broadband for a combined grant and match total of $154 million.

The project will provide world-class broadband to thousands in Brunswick, Charlotte, Halifax, and Mecklenburg Counties. On May 16, Empower Broadband’s request for proposals for the substantial fiber construction project hit the streets to secure contractors to assist with the significant undertaking that will result in world-class broadband access to thousands and thousands of Virginians in rural Southside communities.

“Over the next three years, Empower will operate 3,000 miles of high-speed fiber network passing 30,000 eligible homes and businesses, all of which we hope will take advantage of the best broadband technology available anywhere and become customers of Empower Broadband,” said President and CEO John C. Lee Jr.

“To ensure Empower has hardhats in the field promptly, and we’re deploying fiber as efficiently as absolutely possible, we have sent notice to contractors across the country for bids on our most recent and massive fiber expansion project yet,” he added.

Lee said fiber contractors have been given a construction start date of August 1, 2022, and an overall completion date of July 31, 2025.

“It is astounding that in such a short time we are able to seek the most cost-effective and qualified construction companies to submit proposals to build this expansive fiber network. It is very gratifying to be a part of this strong initiative and provide coverage to those across the region with little or no options for robust broadband service. We are more than eager to bring this critically important service to our communities,” he said.

Additional information will be forthcoming once the successful bidder is selected and work begins on scheduling.

—Report by Priscilla Lawson Whirley, Communications Specialist, Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative