Surry getting wired

Published 3:07 pm Wednesday, February 26, 2020

By Frederic Lee

Staff writer

SURRY — Following two grant awards, every household in Surry County will be hooked up to rural broadband internet through an agreement between Prince George Electric Cooperative and Dominion Energy, according to officials. 

The partnership marks the first time a utility has worked with a cooperative to expand broadband internet access in Virginia, according to a press release from Dominion Energy. 

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Specifically, Dominion Energy has agreed to serve as the “middle mile” provider by leasing Prince George Electric Cooperative some of its broadband fiber, extending high-speed broadband internet to residents and businesses in Surry County, according to the Dominion Energy press release. 

According to a 2018 estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of Surry County is 6,474, with 2,760 households. Surry residents already receive electricity from either Prince George Electric Cooperative or Dominion Energy, according to Interim Surry County Administrator Melissa Rollins. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

“Having worked with the stakeholders over the last few years to make this announcement a reality, I am incredibly excited for the positive impact this will have for the residents and business owners of Surry County,” said Del. Emily Brewer, R-64, in a Feb. 20 press release.

The cost of the entire project will require $16-$18 million in investment provided by the three parties — Dominion Energy, Surry County and Prince George Electric Cooperative , according to the Dominion Energy press release. 

Last month, Surry County officials announced that $2.2 million in state funding would be directed towards broadband internet implementation in Surry County through the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative. 

The Federal Communications Commission’s Connect America Fund also awarded Surry County over $5 million in the effort to implement broadband internet in the county, according to Prince George Electric Cooperative Vice President of Communications and Government Affairs Renee Chapline.  

“This partnership brings rural Surry County into the modern communications age, bridging a vital utility gap through reliable high-speed broadband services to residents and businesses, essential to Surry’s social and economic prosperity,” said Rollins in a statement. 

“We appreciate the partnership and commitment by Dominion Energy and PGEC to bring broadband access to Surry and other rural Virginia communities,” Rollins added. 

More information will be made public when the project’s memorandum of understanding is filed with the State Corporation Commission later this year, according to the Dominion Energy press release. 

Isle of Wight Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson said that, while county staff and Prince George Electric Cooperative were working together on a portion of the county that recently received federal funding through the Connect America Fund, there were no other concrete plans involving the cooperative or Dominion Energy to expand broadband internet in Isle of Wight County. 

Robertson added that Isle of Wight County is hoping to partner with Prince George Electric Cooperative in the efforts of securing more grant money for the county in the future. 

The FCC’s Connect America funding was announced several months ago and applies to parts of Surry County and a portion of northwest Isle of Wight County. {/mprestriction}