Firefly Fiber Broadband, a wholly owned subsidiary of Central Virginia Electric Cooperative, has received $14.1 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Reconnect Program. The long-awaited announcement was made Aug. 11 by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Firefly applied to USDA for the 100% grant option, and the funds will be used to offset the cost of the $18.8 million fiber-to-the-home build across parts of Buckingham, Cumberland, Goochland, Louisa, and Powhatan counties.
The funded service area includes 37 educational facilities; three health care facilities; 14 essential community facilities; 4,139 households; 13,886 residents; 193 businesses; and 65 farms spread over 65 square miles. These rural Virginia residents will have unprecedented access to Firefly’s symmetrical broadband speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second with no data caps or contracts. Firefly will also offer business and residential phone services.
Construction is slated to start later this year after the completion of a final environmental review. New connections in the project area will begin approximately six months after the start of construction. The full project is anticipated to take two years of construction.
“We want to help address the lack of reliable, high-speed internet across as much of Central Virginia as possible. The pandemic created even more of a digital divide for rural residents who needed the internet to work from home, remote learning, and attend doctor appointments virtually to avoid COVID exposure,” stated Firefly President Gary Wood..
“This grant from the USDA will help us to spread our wings in areas where Firefly has not previously been available. We extend our sincere appreciation to these five County Boards of Supervisors and their staff as well as Senator Mark Warner, Senator Tim Kaine and Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger for their assistance with and support of this application,” Wood said.
Firefly’s Regional Internet Service Expansion Project was launched this year to expand broadband to parts of 12 counties, partnering with other area utilities to complete the fiber build.
—Report by Melissa Gay, Communication and Member Services Manager, Central Virginia Electric Cooperative