EMPOWER Broadband, a subsidiary of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC), is committed to extending fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) internet connectivity to homes and businesses across Southside Virginia and, most recently, is fulfilling that mission through a partnership with Brunswick County.  Recent communications from Governor Northam's “Fast Track Broadband CARES Act” funding have announced an award to deploy high-speed fiber broadband to a rural portion of Brunswick County.

The Fast Track Broadband CARES program is an expedited platform to deliver high speed connectivity to homes and businesses and mitigate the subsequent impact of COVID-19. EMPOWER and Brunswick County officials have worked diligently to complete the application resulting in a successful award of $310,626. Funding will provide for the construction of five miles of fiber passing 112 locations immediately adjacent to Highway 46 from the intersection of Rock Church Road to the Meherrin River. This shovel ready project is made possible through the extension of EMPOWER’s existing fiber facilities at Highway 46 and Dry Bread Road. Engineering teams have begun field design including the acquisition of needed equipment and construction material. The installation of mainline fiber is scheduled for completion by December 25.

John C. Lee, Jr., CEO for EMPOWER Broadband commented, “We’re pleased to expand our partnership with Brunswick County and address our joint mission of providing world class internet access to Brunswick’s rural areas. The COVID emergency has focused even greater attention on the digital divide and we are determined for our region to have the high-quality broadband access they deserve. This project will provide reliable and consistent high-speed broadband to both homes and businesses. At EMPOWER, we’re adding additional crews to buildout this project, and to accommodate the associated deadline, and will do so without disrupting our focus on areas already slated for deployment. Our goal is to meet the needs of rural residents and deliver broadband as quickly as possible… and every day, we’re doing just that … one home, one business, and one community at a time.”

The application period, State level reviews, and approvals are tracking on an extremely expedited process all designed to inject CARES funding to immediately address the growing need of students and businesses requiring access to high-speed broadband. This expansion will deliver services to nearly 300 residents in Brunswick County.

Dr. Charlette Woolridge, Brunswick County Administrator commented, “On behalf of our Board of Supervisors and the Citizens of Brunswick County, we are thankful to the Commonwealth for this award and we are thankful to EMPOWER for its commitment and dedication to providing broadband services to those in our rural communities. This project will ease the daily struggle of our citizens as they grapple to meet their responsibilities and duties for school and work. Affordable Broadband enhances economic and employment opportunities as well as expanding the markets of our farming community. Expanding Broadband is indeed one of our highest priorities… a priority we are successfully fulfilling with our partner EMPOWER Broadband.”

EMPOWER is now accepting online applications and is notifying eligible homes and businesses by mail. To accommodate this accelerated construction schedule, residents along the route are strongly encouraged to confirm availability and register online at www.empowermec.net. Simply go to the website and “Click Here” just below the heading “Check Availability and Register Your Interest”. Once the application and Drop Permission forms are returned; scheduling for drop installation from the mainline to homes and businesses can begin.

Lee continued by stating, “This opportunity represents the best in public private partnerships in meeting the educational, employment and economic development needs of the areas and residents we collectively serve. We applaud this dedicated effort by the Brunswick County Board of Supervisors and County Staff who are working 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.”

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, please visit www.empowermec.net.