EMPOWER Broadband and Mecklenburg County officials have been notified that their application for a 2021 Department of Housing and Community Development Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) Grant for broadband deployment funds has been awarded. This $449,381 grant will aid in the construction of facilities to provide high-speed internet to over 400 homes and deploy 22 miles of fiber optic cable in the Tanglewood Shores Area of Bracey.
The grant process began nearly nine months ago with DHCD VATI program reviews. The award announcement occurred about six months after the application submittal, with EMPOWER staff diligently working to submit the comprehensive 125-page application document. The total project cost is set at nearly $1.5 million which includes an EMPOWER investment of $1 million of its own construction funding. The next steps of the project require the finalization of formal agreements between EMPOWER, the County, and DHCD. This process is anticipated to be complete within the next 90 days.
John C. Lee, Jr., CEO of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative, and EMPOWER Broadband, Inc., states, “Our EMPOWER team has been working diligently on plans to deliver high-speed internet to this residential community. These grant funds, along with the considerable funds invested by EMPOWER, will allow us to meet that objective…and begin efforts to deliver this anxiously awaited service to the many homes and home-based businesses located there.”
The project passes some 414 residents including 12 home-based businesses. Linda Adamos, president of the Tanglewood Shores Homes Owners Associations states, “We are so excited to hear this great news. We have worked with the EMPOWER team for some time to make this project a reality. In today’s world, our families and students require high-speed internet for school, work, and even shopping… it is a necessity.”
EMPOWER’s grant team is headed by Michele Taylor, VP Business Development, who indicated that these grant funds will be utilized for Tanglewood Shores and nearby portions of Blackridge Road. Taylor states, “It has been a long process with submittal in August, a challenging process from September through November, and a final ranking and review in December. The hard work was well worth the effort… most importantly, it is yet another step in our mission to bring this critically important service to another Community in our service area.”
Lee continues, “This approval is a significant advancement in our efforts to bridge the digital divide between urban and rural areas, and we appreciate the strong support of the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors, County Administrator Wayne Carter, and County staff who partnered with us throughout the application preparation, submittal, and subsequent approval of this VATI grant. For far too long, our region has been overlooked regarding high-speed internet… but by working together, we’re methodically overcoming the considerable challenge of addressing that shortcoming with the best in technology…fiber. After all, why shouldn’t Southside Virginians have the best too?”
Tanglewood area residents are encouraged to register their interest at www.empowermec.net and to monitor the site for updates on the project timeline.
EMPOWER Broadband, Inc., a subsidiary of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative, 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.