Empower Broadband is aggressively moving toward the construction phase of its $154 million broadband project serving Halifax, Mecklenburg, southern Brunswick and southern Charlotte counties, and has taken the next step in the process by hiring a firm to assist in the project’s design and construction oversight.
“Empower Broadband has worked diligently to position itself to bring high-speed broadband to Southside Virginia, and our recently announced $154 million expansion is a historic step in bringing universal coverage to our region,” said John C. Lee Jr., president and CEO. “Empower is targeting an aggressive construction timeline and we have interviewed multiple, nationally renowned fiber engineering and construction firms to assist us in managing and expediting this critically important project.
“Accordingly, we are pleased to announce we have executed an agreement with Magellan Advisors to serve as our Owner’s Engineer firm,” he stated. “This well-respected, highly experienced organization has provided planning, engineering, and construction management of more than $1 billion in new broadband investments, has connected more than 1 million homes with gigabit broadband, and connected fiber to thousands of schools, hospitals, libraries and government facilities across the U.S.”
Magellan has deployed over 50 different advanced broadband networks nationwide, constructing thousands of miles of fiber, including those owned by electric cooperatives and municipalities. They have previously worked in this region while providing services to the city of Chesapeake, and electric cooperatives including Middle Tennessee Electric Cooperative in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Magellan and Empower staff are currently defining the boundaries of upwards of 30 individual construction zones across the collective project area. Once defined, these areas will be presented through a Request For Proposal process seeking the most cost-effective and qualified construction companies to submit proposals to build each zone in the project area.
Once construction contractors are selected, Magellan’s experienced on-site deployment team will assist Empower in overseeing daily work including supervision of splicing, termination and testing; inspection of backbone, distribution and drop construction; tracking field changes; creating a punch list, and contracting close-out items for each zone.
“We anticipate working in all four counties concurrently, beginning mostly in areas adjacent to existing Empower facilities where we have fiber that is deployed and building out from our lit fiber there. Building an entire broadband network across this expansive rural area is a monumental undertaking,” he continued.
“At this breakneck pace, we will rely on residents’ patience as we build to their homes and businesses, but we commit to our residents, our communities, and our counties, to work with diligence and urgency to complete this crucial task and deliver to them what no one else would … and make no mistake about it … Empower is coming to you.”
Additionally, once deployment zones are finalized, Empower will lay out a construction schedule and provide timelines for each zone of this project that ultimately will result in world-class broadband service being accessible to over 14,000 Southside Virginia homes and businesses.
Company officials anticipate a May release of the timetable, and the commencement of construction later in June. Additionally, once construction is underway, Empower will provide a regularly updated dashboard of progress indicators informing those interested as to how the project is progressing with a number of statistics such as miles of fiber deployed and the number of customers connected.
—Report by Priscilla Lawson Whirley, Communications Specialist, Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative
Above photo: From left, the Empower crew of Chad Plemons, Anthony Caligiuri and Tyshawn Widgeon install fiber to a new subscriber. (Photo By: Empower Broadband)