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Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative Vice President of Member and Energy Services David Lipscomb delivers a presentation on EMPOWER to the Emporia City Council.

It’s essential.

Reliable broadband connection in the City of Emporia and Greensville County is a cry heard over and over in recent years.

On Tuesday, the Emporia City Council voted unanimously, 7-0, to partner with Greensville County and EMPOWER to apply for a Virginia Telecommunication Initiative Grant (VATI).

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative Vice President of Member and Energy Services David Lipscomb delivered a PowerPoint presentation to the City Council, updating the progress of putting affordable broadband services in homes and businesses throughout the community.

“Just down the road from here, we connected our 1,000th customer earlier this spring in the Brink community,” Lipscomb said. So, it’s in your community. We’re making a difference here.”

Lipscomb said there is still a long way to go, but they are on the right track. EMPOWER, an affiliate of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative, has received multi-millions of dollars in grant money through partnerships to distribute broadband services to rural Virginia communities.

The fiber backbone gives customers quick upload and download speed and does not sport a cap on data usage. Adults benefit for business purposes. Children benefit from schoolwork resources. Reliable internet connection became front and center as virtual instruction became the centerpiece of educating students during the pandemic. Assuring students living in rural areas have reliable internet access is speeding up the broadband process.

“It’s for them,” Lipscomb said. “That is our desire. That is what we are working toward doing. Our kids deserve the same things kids do in the more metropolitan areas across the state.”

Mecklenburg Electric, EMPOWER’s parent company, was founded in 1938 to bring electricity to homes in rural areas. The electrification for homes mission was accomplished a long time ago. Emporia City Councilman Woody Harris asked Lipscomb about the timeline to bring reliable internet access into the rural areas of Virginia. The answer — 3 years.

Lipscomb said there is urgency in the push for reliable broadband service.

“They recognize that the need is here, and our governor has pushed to get those services deep into our communities and to deliver to these rural areas.”

EMPOWER owns more than 500 miles of installed fiber. The stream runs through Pittsylvania, Halifax, Charlotte, Mecklenburg, Brunswick, and Greensville counties. It also streams in the City of Emporia.

Halifax and Mecklenburg counties have received $4.2 million in VATI grants to install fiberoptic services in their communities. The City of Emporia and Greensville County hopes to be the next in line to bring their communities up to par in reliable internet capabilities for their citizens.