The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission has signed a contract with the Department of Housing and Community Development, launching a $288 million construction project that will provide access to affordable, reliable, high-speed fiber internet to more than 36,000 businesses and residences through Firefly Fiber Broadband, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Central Virginia Electric Cooperative.
In December 2021, Gov. Ralph Northam announced the award of a $79 million Virginia Telecommunications Initiative grant to Firefly and its partners Rappahannock Electric Cooperative and Dominion Energy. This project was funded and supported in collaboration with VATI. The $79 million VATI grant from the state, along with $209 million in local and private sector matching funds, support the project.
The TJPDC is the administrator for a 2022 VATI grant that will facilitate rural broadband expansion across a 13-county area, including the five counties that are part of the TJPDC region. Administered by the DHCD, VATI provides targeted financial assistance to extend broadband service to areas that are unserved by an internet service provider.
“We are thankful for our partnership with Firefly and DHCD to get this project up and running,” said TJPDC Executive Director Christine Jacobs. “We are especially excited to see expansion of high-speed fiber internet become a reality across our greater region.” Projects were selected through a competitive process that evaluated each project for demonstrated need and benefit for the community, applicant readiness and capacity, and the cost and leverage of the proposed project. The level of funding awarded is based on the infrastructure needs in the project area.
As part of Firefly’s Regional Internet Service Expansion program, residents in Albemarle, Amherst, Appomattox, Buckingham, Campbell, Cumberland, Fluvanna, Goochland, Greene, Louisa, Madison, Nelson and Powhatan counties will have the opportunity to connect to fiber-to-the-home, gigabit-speed internet over the course of the next three years.
Firefly President and CEO Gary Wood said, “Firefly is very fortunate to have reliable partners in this endeavor, including our engineering and construction contractors, and leadership in each county. The RISE project intends to offer universal broadband access to all unserved locations in Central Virginia and would not be possible without the cooperation of our utility partners REC and Dominion Energy.”
—Report by Melissa Gay, Communications and Member Services Manager, Central Virginia Electric Cooperative