Broadband

Chad Plemons, Anthony Caligiuri and Tyshawn Widgeon with EMPOWER install fiber to a new subscriber.

EMPOWER Broadband, Inc. has hired a firm to assist in the design and construction oversight of it its $154 million broadband project serving Halifax, Mecklenburg, southern Brunswick and southern Charlotte counties.

After interviewing multiple firms, EMPOWER entered into an agreement with Magellan Advisors to serve as their Owner’s Engineer firm.

John C. Lee Jr., EMPOWER president and CEO, said, “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 one 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, Tennessee.

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 (RFP) 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.”

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 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, number of customers connected, etc.

Concurrently, as EMPOWER secured an outstanding OE, the Southside Planning District Commission is finalizing agreements with Virginia’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) regarding the award of $69 million in ARPA Funds (American Rescue Plan Act) to aid in construction costs to bring high-speed internet access to the region’s unserved rural areas.

Area residents in the target counties can check VATI eligible broadband locations by visiting www.EMPOWERMEC.net, clicking the ‘Find Out’ button for the VATI Eligibility Map, and then entering their 911 address.

Additionally, residents may click the ‘Check Availability’ button at the top right of the home page to view eligibility for all other existing projects.

It should be noted that if your address is not included in this VATI grant, it may be that the location is part of a previous award to provide service to the area.

There are small areas throughout Southside Virginia that have been covered under awards to EMPOWER and other providers outside this VATI grant.

EMPOWER is wrapping up construction to a number of other areas for which it received grant dollars for fiber deployment and all of those are on schedule for completion.

As mentioned, other organizations have also received funds of some type, primarily through the FCC’s CAF-II and RDOF auctions to serve areas in the four counties included in this project, and EMPOWER has no control over their progress or deployment time frames.

Also, bear in mind that maps are constantly changing and there will be some instances where addresses that do not show up as being served by this VATI grant will be included in EMPOWER’s project.