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Partnership could help connect ‘underserved’ residents to broadband

Partnership could help connect ‘underserved’ residents to broadband

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For all of the joys of living in rural Goochland — fresh air, bucolic scenery, freedom from traffic and other suburban headaches — there is one issue that will most likely make any resident’s list of cons: a lack of access to high speed Internet service.

While County leaders have wrestled with the issue for years, they have consistently come up against the same stumbling blocks. Particularly in areas with especially low population densities, broadband Internet service providers simply can’t make the numbers work.

Now, however, thanks to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that county supervisors voted to sign on April 6, many residents living in underserved areas of the county may be just a little closer to getting connected.

The MOU with Dominion Energy Virginia, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative and Firefly Fiber Broadband is only the first step of a process that will focus on using the resources of the three entities to bring broadband to the roughly 3,500 residents currently without it.

The plan, at its heart, is simple. “We figure if we can get you connected to electricity, we ought to be able to figure out how to get you connected to broadband,” said Firefly President Gary Wood, who also serves as the CEO of CVEC.

According to the MOU, Firefly will serve as the “last mile” provider, allowing residents to tap into an infrastructure that is already in place to help meet the communication needs to the two energy providers.

As Wood told board members, “We will go anywhere it is economically viable.”

A number of other localities are also being approached to engage in a similar partnership, though as of April 6 Louisa had been the only other county to sign an MOU.

This is not Firefly’s first foray into the County — it entered into an agreement last year to begin serving customers locally — but news of the proposed agreement still drew an enthusiastic response from County leaders.

“I can’t tell you how happy this makes me,” said District 1 supervisor Susan Lascolette to Wood and the other representatives attending the meeting. “You said you have been looking everywhere for funding [for this project], and we’ve been looking everywhere for an Internet provider. So I think this is a true match here.”

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