Almost 7,000 residents of in rural areas of Surry County, Virginia, could get broadband if the goals of a memorandum of understanding between Dominion Energy Virginia and Prince George Electric Cooperative are fully realized.

The agreement calls for making broadband available to 4,500 Dominion Energy customers and 2,200 Prince George Electric Cooperative (PGEC) customers to whom broadband is not available today.

“Dominion Energy is committed to the communities in which we serve and live and embraces the opportunity with PGEC to expand access to broadband in rural communities,” Ed Baine, senior vice president of power delivery for Dominion Energy Virginia, said in a press release. “Access will support economic development and social equity while simultaneously promoting numerous public benefits and educational opportunities for citizens of the Commonwealth.”

Dominion Energy is installing fiber in rural areas of the state as part of a grid modernization effort, but also plans to offer the fiber to ISPs and, thus, reduce the ISPs’ costs in bringing broadband to rural communities.

The MOU calls for Dominion Energy to act as a middle-mile provider that will lease fiber to PGEC’s wholly-owned subsidiary RURALBAND, which will provide last-mile fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) services. The MOU details how the parties would work together and will be filed with the State Corporation Commission this year for approval. The MOU is the result of a request for information by Dominion Energy Virginia last year. It is the first agreement crafted under the Grid Transformation & Security Act of 2018.

Dominion Energy, PGEC and another party would invest $16-$18 million in the planned network, which would also receive some funding through federal and state grants.

PGEC was one of 21 electric cooperatives that submitted a joint bid for gigabit funding in the Connect America Fund II auction. The Rural Electric Cooperative Consortium (RECC) won $186 million in the auction, the third largest winner overall and the largest winner promising to create gigabit speed infrastructure.

Rural Virginia also will be gaining new broadband connectivity through USDA’s ReConnect program. In Virginia, so far, the program has awarded almost $52 million in loans to two entities – a cooperative and a phone company.

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