Broadband has been a major discussion topic for the SVEC board of directors. SVEC has completed two feasibility studies to better understand how broadband could be incorporated into our future plans for a fiber network that will connect all our substations and other infrastructure for electric use.
In August 2020, the board voted to explore opportunities in each locality that paired up with our fiber backbone and also served the internet needs in the area. The need for broadband varies greatly within the service territory and the board wanted to be purposeful in our approach. Staff has been in contact with localities regarding this plan and is currently identifying starting points across our service territory. Once initiated, the roll out will take several years to complete. While SVEC does not anticipate becoming an internet service provider, the board feels strongly about trying to find solutions by way of partnership to help with the rural broadband challenge.
Click here to listen to the updates on the fiber project given during our telephone town hall event on March 18, 2021.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between “fiber” and “broadband” in the context of the SVEC project?
Fiber is the fiberoptic cable backbone that will connect substations, communication sites, offices, and other SVEC facilities.
Broadband is “high speed” internet connection. Fiberoptic cable is one possible media type to deliver broadband service.
Is SVEC entering the broadband business?
The cooperative will act as a “middle mile provider” and does not intend on being an internet service provider (ISP). An ISP would lease fiber space from SVEC to run to a member’s home to provide broadband service.
Why is SVEC doing it this way?
- The fiber cable project was first approved by the cooperative’s Board of Directors to connect substations, communications towers and other facilities to offer a more reliable, long-term technology for the co-op and its members.
- The idea of leasing space to ISPs while installing fiber makes strategic and economic sense to meet the needs of members.
- Strategic: The co-op recognized the need for broadband deployment in rural areas, and providing “middle mile” service (the installation of fiber) to further incentivize ISPs to come to the Valley is an additional service to our members.
- Financial: The cost to install the fiber network is $40 million while the cost to extend to homes would have started at $250 million.
- SVEC serves a large, diverse territory with a range of member needs as it pertains to better internet service.
- Available resources at this time allow for the co-op to make the planned fiber investment, while maintaining our core service of safe, reliable electricity at the lowest possible cost.
When will this project start?
As of March 2021, SVEC is preparing to obtain easements from members and landowners for the installation of a fiber network that will help bring broadband to select rural areas of its service territory.
This initial phase of fiber construction will occur in parts of Augusta, Frederick, Page and Rockingham counties. The exact locations are not being disclosed at this time, but they have been identified in each county.
The project timeline for each locality varies based on the amount of “make-ready” work necessary throughout 2021. This work includes SVEC’s engineers assessing the availability of poles for attachments. In many cases, there are non-electric cables and wires on co-op poles. Engineers must evaluate the structure of the poles to know whether additional attachments can be made without changes.
What is the current status of the project?
6/2/21 Update: SVEC issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for contractors who will assist with the make-ready design for the fiber network, as well as obtain the necessary easements from the property owners along the routes. RFPs were collected at the end of May 2021 and are being evaluated. Property owners along the routes will be contacted as the project progresses. Roll out of this project will occur in segments over the next three or so years.
SVEC has identified one potential project with an ISP partner and will continue to have conversations with other localities regarding future partnerships throughout the summer.
More information will be posted here as it becomes available.