EMPOWER Broadband, a subsidiary of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC), is working with Halifax County deploy an additional 23 miles of fiber optic cable making broadband service available to more than 550 rural accounts using CARES Act funding.

The CARES funds carry a requirement that the services they are utilized to support, be made available within calendar year 2020.

This project will provide fiber connections to those along portions of Bethel Road, Burton Road, Clays Mill Road, Clays Mill School Road, Cole Lane, Cowford Road, Paul James Road, Sparrow Trail, Wagstaff Lane and Winn’s Creek Road. EMPOWER is asking interested residents in those areas to confirm their eligibility and interest on its website as the proposed build area is subject to minor modification as field design and construction plans are developed.

John C. Lee Jr., EMPOWER Broadband’s President and CEO said, “We’re pleased to expand our partnership with Halifax County and work together to provide the best in broadband service for our members, and the citizens there. Our shared mission is to aggressively meet the challenges brought on by the digital divide, which has been extraordinarily intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic and has been devastating for education and business. This project will mitigate the lack of desperately needed connectivity in our rural communities and provide reliable and consistent high-speed broadband to both homes and businesses.”

The president and CEO of EMPOWER Broadband also said they’re adding additional crews and resources to undertake this project

“Our goal is to meet the needs of rural residents and deliver broadband service as quickly as possible… and every day, we’re doing just that … one home, one business and one community at a time,” he added.

Lee continued, “This partnership represents the best in community leaders working together with a caring corporate entity to meet the educational, employment and economic development needs of the areas and residents we collectively serve. We applaud this dedicated effort by the Halifax County Board of Supervisors and county staff who are working diligently to make broadband a reality for all their citizens and our rural members, rest assured, they are fully committed to making it happen…and so are we.”

Halifax County Administrator Scott Simpson said, “The impact of the pandemic clearly demonstrates our immense need for high speed broadband, whether for students or businesses. When considering CARES funding allocations, the pressing need for broadband rose as the top priority. We have been impressed by EMPOWER’s successes to bring fiber internet to our rural homes and partnering with them to deliver broadband to the citizens of Halifax County completes the shared goal of meeting the needs of our communities and residents.”

In 2018, EMPOWER and MEC received a Tobacco Commission grant to build a 135-mile fiber backbone across southern Virginia and through Halifax County.

Accordingly, EMPOWER’s strategic plan designates the utilization of this backbone to expand critical broadband service deeper into rural communities.

Recently, EMPOWER successfully leveraged its investment in those completed facilities to acquire additional grants through the Department of Housing and Community Development’s Virginia Telecommunication Initiative.

Now, they’re continuing their partnership with the county to extend fiber-to-the-premise internet connections to homes and businesses across Southside with this most recent project.

These areas designated for CARES funds are now open for registration at www.empowermec.net; interested residents are encouraged to access the website and click on the box beneath “Check Availability and Register Your Interest” to begin the process.

Additionally, EMPOWER Broadband will be sending letters to those within the eligible area. Remember, residents should sign up immediately and encourage their neighbors to do the same so EMPOWER can get everyone connected during the grant period.

MEC’s subsidiary, EMPOWER Broadband, Inc., provides middle-mile capacity, retail high-speed internet service, as well as voice over IP telephony, high-speed data services and advanced cloud-based solutions, to over 4,000 accounts in the cooperative’s service territory in Southside Virginia and northern North Carolina.

For more information, visit www.empowermec.net.