From Central Virginia Electric Cooperative and Firefly Fiber Broadband:
We are making very good progress with our broadband expansion in Nelson County and across our service area that touches 14 counties.
First let me give a quick background to our project. CVEC is a not-for-profit electric cooperative that serves over 37,000 accounts in parts of 14 counties. We have been in business since 1937. The cooperative has made the decision to build out a fiber optic communications network to every point on the electric distribution system to aide with the operation of the system. Due to the lack of access to broadband in the electric service territory, every member will have the option of using the fiber network for high speed broadband access. State regulations do not allow CVEC to sell internet service, but they do allow CVEC to own a subsidiary which may engage in any legal business in Virginia. Therefore CVEC leases its fiber network to Firefly Fiber Broadband, its wholly owned subsidiary, and Firefly offers retail internet service as well as voice over IP telephone service.
Firefly now offers retail service from over 450 miles of fiber in Nelson County. The fiber build and associated make ready work to the electric distribution system represents an investment of more than $20 million in the county. The system provides broadband internet service options to more than 6200 homes and businesses in the northern and eastern portions of the county. Firefly is presently completing connections to those who have signed up in the Martins Store substation area. More than 50% of homes have taken the broadband internet service. Splicing of the fiber is underway at Wintergreen presently; final connections there will begin within the next month and continue through spring. We anticipate a similar take rate within the resort.
Firefly also now owns and operates the middle mile fiber system that was transferred from Nelson County on 1 January. That middle mile system offers availability through other internet service providers to more than 1000 additional homes and businesses, with about 500 who have connected. Firefly does not offer retail service on that middle mile system at this time, but does plan to by midyear.
In summer 2020, fiber will be built out in the CVEC Colleen substation footprint which will add another 130 miles of fiber to the network and pass 1000 more homes and businesses in the county. In future years, service will be extended to the other substation serving portions of the county from Gladstone, Piney River and Schuyler. Firefly also plans some fiber building of its own outside of the CVEC electric system boundaries in portions of the APCo service area adjacent to the CVEC territory. The specific final areas to be built outside of the CVEC system have not been determined.
In addition to Nelson County, Firefly presently has service available in the Appomattox substation area and has begun making final connections in the Zion substation area which touches Albemarle, Fluvanna and Louisa counties. In 2020, Firefly plans to begin offering service in other areas of Appomattox, Fluvanna and Nelson plus portions of additional counties including Buckingham and Cumberland and Prince Edward. Firefly plans to have an additional 5000 homes connected to the internet during 2020 with plans to reach that many more again in 2021. Interested rural residents can follow the progress of the service expansion at www.fireflyva.com where announcement tables and maps are kept up to date.
Firefly offers two levels of residential internet service: 100 mbps upload and download for $49.99 and 1 gigabit service for $79.99. There are no data caps. It also offers voice over IP telephone service for $34.99; the phone service is discounted $5 if combined with internet service. Firefly has proven to be very reliable with no slowdowns at any time, and only a single small outage affecting a few customers from last June through January of this year. The combination of low price, high speed, high reliability and local service has been a hit with the customers resulting in only one customer leaving Firefly other than those who have moved from their homes.
Firefly is not in business to make a large profit, but instead its mission is to overcome the lack of affordable, reliable, high speed true broadband service in rural central Virginia. After the first year, it has gained traction in Nelson County and across the region. The goal is to make rural central Virginia a feasible location to live for young families and professionals, as well as to make it a favored place to locate any business that requires a dependable broadband connection.
President and CEO
Central Virginia Electric Cooperative
Firefly Fiber Broadband
For information about Nelson County, Virginia and real estate opporunities please contact Natt A. Hall, Jr., Principal Broker/President at Virginia Estates, Inc. 434-242-9893
What has all this done to the real estate market in Nelson?
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