INDEPENDENCE, Va. – Appalachian Power this week installed the first fiber optic cable on its power poles in Grayson County. Construction is a significant step forward for customers in the rural Virginia community anxiously awaiting access to reliable high-speed internet.
After the fiber optic lines are installed, internet service provider, GigaBeam Networks of Bluefield, Virginia, will offer the “last-mile” connectivity to Grayson County’s unserved customers. Customers will have an opportunity to connect to the internet at various points during construction. It is expected to take 18 to 24 months to reach all county residents identified in the project area.
"It is exciting to see the fiber being deployed in Grayson County that will provide residents with incredibly fast internet service, said Del. Israel O’Quinn, who applauded Appalachian Power for its commitment to the project. “I consider the enabling legislation the most important bill I have passed, and the impact will be immeasurable as the infrastructure that is being put in place is future-proof."
Appalachian Power gained approval for the pilot project from the Virginia State Corporation Commission in March, which authorized the company to install up to 238 miles of 96-strand fiber optic cable on its utility poles in the rural county. Over the past nine months, the company negotiated a contract and timeline with GigaBeam, studied and engineered the fiber optic network, inspected power poles, and ordered supplies and equipment.
Grayson County Administrator Bill Shepley said interest in the project is at an all-time high. “Because of the pandemic, reliable internet is critical for jobs, education, and access to healthcare,” said Shepley. “Our community has a strong desire for this project to work, and other rural localities, utilities and internet providers are also watching and learning from our experience.”
In addition to providing broadband capacity, the fiber optic cable will support Appalachian Power’s deployment of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) or smart meters for customers, as well as equipment and technology that will pinpoint and correct faults on circuits, shortening outages.
“I’m proud of the ingenuity shown by our employees and project partners,” said Chris Beam, Appalachian Power president and COO, who added that the company is finalizing the necessary rate adjustment clause filing. “This is a true partnership. While providing a safe and reliable electric product, we’ve found another way we can support and connect with our customers and communities.”
Grayson County has received two grants totaling approximately $2 million from the Commonwealth to be used toward making broadband available for unserved and underserved citizens.
“This is a substantial project that’s generated a great deal of public interest,” said Michael Clemons with GigaBeam Networks, who regularly fields calls from potential customers and legislators. “We’ve achieved a lot over the last nine months, and while there are still many steps ahead each day we’re working is another day closer to bringing high-speed internet to people and families who would otherwise not have access to service.”