The Louisa County Virginia Board of Supervisors announced on March 1 a new countywide initiative to deliver high-speed fiber internet service to 100% of the county’s residents and businesses. The project includes a partnership with Conexon partner Central Virginia Electric Cooperative (CVEC) and its subsidiary Firefly Fiber Broadband, as well as two other local cooperatives, Rappahannock Electric Co-op and Dominion Energy Virginia.
“Today, Louisa County begins to build a bridge across the digital divide,” said Bob Babyok, Chairman of the Louisa County Board of Supervisors. “This is a countywide solution to our internet challenges, from Gum Spring to Gordonville, from Bumpass to Yanceyville, from Lake Anna to Zion Crossroads, and every spot in between. We are going to provide every citizen the opportunity to join the virtual world.”
Conexon client Central Virginia Electric and its fiber subsidiary, Firefly Fiber Broadband, had already built FTTH network infrastructure in the western part of Louisa County. The project now has been expanded to bring access to the entire county with the partnership of Rappahannock Electric Co-op and Dominion Energy Virginia. All partners are investing in the project, and the Louisa County Virginia Board in September 2020 earmarked $15 million to advance the project.
“This project is a direct result of a focused group who said our citizens deserve more. They should not be left behind simply because of where they live,” said Gary Wood, President and CEO of CVEC and Firefly Fiber Broadband. “Since Firefly was established, providing a desperately needed service to unserved and underserved areas of Central Virginia has been our primary objective. This partnership approach developed with Louisa County assures every home and business gets world class broadband access, and the approach developed here can be replicated in other localities.”
Rappahannock Electric (REC) will own the fiber network constructed in the majority of the county, while will be built on its infrastructure. Initial phases of the project are slated for early 2021. Firefly will be the internet service provider for the partnership and will ensure the availability of fiber broadband on a county-wide basis. Firefly will oversee construction of the REC-owned fiber in the REC service territory and then be responsible for network operation and fiber maintenance.
Firefly entered the fiber broadband market in 2018 to meet the demand in CVEC’s territory. Service take rates were initially forecast at 35% over two years; today, take rates average more than 50% throughout the service territory, with some areas of Louisa County at over 70%.
Wood said that the Louisa County project plans to continue with its construction partners, including Conexon for network design. “Conexon has designed more fiber projects in the past few years than any other design team in the U.S.,” he said. “With the right team, we will built this project quickly and we will build it well.”
The first step in the partnership will be to complete engineering studies to determine the most efficient deployment plan and finalize funding requirements. It is estimated that 50% of Louisa County will have access by the end of 2023, 75% by the end of 2024, and project completion slated by the end of 2025.