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Electric co-op won’t commit to internet in Louisa County

Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2018 at 4:07 pm

The Louisa County Broadband Authority’s first wireless internet tower, a 120-foot pole, was erected behind the high school on Aug. 9.

The electric cooperative that serves the western third of Louisa County plans to offer high-speed internet service to customers by the end of 2019 from a substation that sits on the Fluvanna County line.

Although the Zion substation, on Diamond Road, serves a number of Louisa residents, a spokeswoman for Central Virginia Electric Cooperative said the company won’t commit to offer them internet until the county offers some financial incentives.

“We are working with Louisa and Albemarle to see if we can get those counties added while we’re in the area installing fiber,” Melissa Gay, the CVEC spokeswoman, said Friday.

Fluvanna County residents were promised access to the service after that county’s economic development authority agreed in July to a maximum of $500,000 in tax rebates and a $375,000 cash contribution. CVEC agreed to construct fiber-optic links to Zion substation customers in 2019, and to customers of the Hensons Store substation by 2020. The latter substation is on Poindexter Road next to the Zion Crossroads fire and rescue station.

Gay said the Zion substation may serve “a couple hundred” Louisa customers. The Hensons Store substation covers a much larger portion of the county.

The Louisa County Board of Supervisors discussed potential financial aid for CVEC at a meeting last winter, but took no action. CVEC asked the county for the equivalent of $2 million in funding, or 20 percent of the cooperative’s planned $10 million investment in Louisa.

Gay said it’s possible the board will revisit the issue at its Sept. 4 meeting. Supervisor Bob Babyok (Green Springs) said he intends to place the matter on the agenda.

“If we could have the fiber, it would send a positive signal to businesses interested in coming here,” he said.

Babyok added that if CVEC firms up plans to offer broadband to all of its 3,500 Louisa customers, the county may no longer need broadband infrastructure it currently plans to install on a radio tower in Zion Crossroads.

CVEC serves about 85 percent of all households in Fluvanna, compared to 27 percent of Louisa homes. Members of the Louisa County Broadband Authority and Supervisor Duane Adams (Mineral district), the board’s liaison to the authority, have said they want to convince Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, which serves a larger portion of Louisa, to offer internet via fiber-optic lines.

While CVEC was studying whether to offer high-speed internet using fiber, Louisa County moved forward with a plan to offer it via wireless towers.

The first of those towers was erected on Aug. 9 behind Louisa County High School, and two more should be built by the end of the month at Moss-Nuckols and Jouett elementary schools.

Read the full article in The Central Virginian’s Aug. 16 issue.

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