Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative receives $2.5 million ARC POWER Initiative broadband infrastructure grant

Staff Report

RIO GRANDE — Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative (BREC) announced Tuesday that it has been awarded a $2.5 million grant under the 2019 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative for the installation of 168 miles of fiber from its corporate office in Gallipolis. The project will connect the co-op’s substations located throughout six counties in the eastern portion of their service territory in southeastern Ohio.

The initiative will improve service reliability and security, and utilize available technologies among BREC’s substations, by providing a fiber infrastructure, or “backbone,” that will also allow for future broadband expansion by internet service providers (ISP). These ISPs will provide “last mile” service to connect homes and businesses to high-speed internet in the remote unserved and underserved areas of Gallia, Vinton, Meigs, Athens, Lawrence, and Jackson counties.

“We are excited to be part of the first step toward the expansion of broadband into areas of southeastern Ohio, where it would not otherwise be possible,” said BREC Executive Vice President and General Manager Tonda Meadows. Project construction is expected to take three years.

Today’s announcement is one of 54 investments totaling $44.4 million via ARC’s POWER initiative, a congressionally funded opportunity targeting federal resources to help communities and regions that have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America’s energy production.

A portion of the ARC POWER Initiative funds were set aside to fund broadband deployment projects that enhance access to and the use of broadband services, which is a critical infrastructure component needed by all segments of the community for business development, job creation, and health care services (including telemedicine). Broadband expansion is necessary in order to help rural areas compete with more densely populated areas. The ARC grant total sum is not to exceed $2,500,000 of actual, reasonable, and eligible project costs. The Buckeye REC non-ARC share is expected to be $1,100,000, in equity, contributed services, or in-kind contributions. Approximately 70% of the total project cost will be funded with grant money from the federal government.

“I congratulate Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative for being an FY 2019 POWER grantee and commend them on the leadership they have shown in their community,” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas. “POWER grants are playing a critical role in supporting coal-impacted communities in the Appalachian Region as they diversify economies, invest in growth-oriented infrastructure, train a next-generation workforce, and ingrain resiliency and hope into their local fabric. Projects like this help ensure a prosperous future for Appalachia.”

Information submitted on behalf of BREC.

Staff Report