Facebook to open fiber networks to expand broadband access in rural Virginia

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Facebook announced a new project on Thursday that will bring broadband service to thousands of homes in Virginia this fall, in partnership with a local ISP and a utility company.

The project began with the fiber networks that Facebook was already building to connect its data centers in Virginia, Ohio and North Carolina. With this fiber already installed, Facebook has partnered with Appalachian Power and GigaBeam Networks to expand networks to approximately 6,000 homes in Grayson County, Virginia. Homes are expected to have broadband broadband access by late fall.

“These are really complicated problems that we are trying to solve. If they weren’t complicated, then we still wouldn’t have 19 million unserved or underserved, ”said Michele Kohler, head of Facebook’s network investment team. The edge in an interview on Wednesday. “We’re trying to figure out how can we play into the equation, with these complex partnerships, to figure out how we can help people connect faster. “

Kohler also said Facebook is providing “engineering and technical resources” to partner companies. The proposed network would take advantage of a new law approved by the Virginia legislature last year, which allows electrical and communications companies to thread fiber along existing poles and conduits. Still, the future of these networks is unclear, as utility companies like Rappahannock Electric Cooperative have been sued by landowners for infringing their property rights when they sought to invoke the new provisions.

Facebook’s announcement comes just months after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said the state would invest $ 700 million from the US bailout to achieve universal connectivity in the state by 2024. President Joe Biden signed the coronavirus relief plan last March, providing Virginia with more than $ 4 billion in aid – the pool of money used to support universal connectivity.

“I am convinced that with this level of broadband and connectivity, people will not be forced to move to cities to find good quality jobs,” Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) said in a statement. regarding Facebook. plans Thursday.


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