In 2021, as part of a multi-faceted approach to establish universal broadband coverage for Campbell County, the County partnered with 12 other Central Virginia Counties to provide matching funds for a $79 million Commonwealth of Virginia’s Telecommunication Initiative (VATI) grant from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC), who administers the VATI grant, announced this week that they signed the contract with DHCD, signaling the official launch for the Regional Internet Service Expansion (RISE) project with Firefly Fiber Broadband. The RISE Project’s three-year, $330 million plan will bring high speed fiber internet to more than 45,000 location across the 13 participating Counties.
Firefly’s RISE Project area in Campbell County will offer fiber-to-the-home internet service in the Concord area with gigabit speed internet connections offered to customers there sometime in Spring 2023, according to the construction update on their website. Installations will then continue for several months following. “I am very excited to partner with a company of Firefly's reputation to provide broadband fiber coverage to a large unserved portion of the Concord District,” says Board of Supervisors Representative for the Concord District Matt Cline.
The Concord expansion is just one part of the ultimate goal to have universal reliable high speed internet across Campbell County. “The Board of Supervisors has been working to address the need for Countywide broadband,” says County Administrator Frank Rogers. “The Board is aware of the need for high speed internet to meet the educational, economic and quality of life demands of County residents and businesses. These VATI grant projects are an exciting advancement toward universal broadband coverage.”
The map Firefly provides on their website shows the scope of future planned expansions included in the VATI grant. “The recent VATI grants awarded through the State Department of Housing and Community Development facilitate the expansion of coverage throughout the County,” Rogers explains. “Firefly’s partnership, while focused in the Concord area, will be implemented along with projects in partnership with Shentel and Riverstreet Networks in other areas of the County to expand this critical service.”
Construction of a fiber optic network is a complex and lengthy process. Numerous contractors are involved and the entire process can take six to 12 months to complete, depending upon the length of the circuit, the terrain and soils, weather and other external factors. This week’s announcement of the signed contract marks the official start of the project, but design and pre-construction tasks, as permitted by the DHCD have been underway. More information is available online about the 6 Phases of Fiber Construction to explain the timeline.
Reliable and affordable high-speed internet service is vital for economic activity for a diverse set of industries. Agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare, and schools all continue to evolve in ways that increase those needs. TJPDC Executive Director Christine Jacobs praised the RISE project and others like it. “We are thankful for our partnership with Firefly and DHCD to get this project up and running,” she said. “We are especially excited to see expansion of high-speed fiber internet become a reality across our greater region.”
Stay apprised of the latest updates to this project by visiting the RISE Project page at: https://www.fireflyva.com/rise/.
The VATI leverage areas, built in coordination with the VATI buildout, add 600 miles of fiber, pass 5,500 homes, and cost $23.3 million. The contingent areas add 325 miles and 2,700 more passings. The areas also add $25 million with $5.8 million from VATI and $1.9 million from the county partners. The total RISE Project will cost $330 million, take approximately three years to complete, and include 5,000 miles of fiber construction.