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BATESVILLE – Tallahatchie Valley Electric Power Association (TVEPA) has received over $40 million in funding to provide fiber-optic broadband internet service, funding that is expediting the buildout of over 2,000 miles of fiber in its nine-county service area.
The funding for TVEPA’s subsidiary, TVIfiber, includes a $16 million grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Reconnect Program, $20 million from the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (see related story, page 1) and $4.5 million from CARES act money that flowed through the state.
“It has sped things up tremendously. When we started we were self-funding all of this, a $63 million project,” TVEPA CEO Brad Robison reported Thursday. “Today we have built over 1,100 miles of fiber,” Robison added. “We have hooked up over 3,000 customers. We can’t go fast enough.”
Robison said construction has been completed in Phase One, which is the central portion of TVEPA’s service area including Panola County. Construction is expected to be completed by late summer in Phase Two, the northern portion of the service area including Tate County. Construction is expected to start this fall in Phase Three, the southern counties served by the electric co-op. Phase Three is the largest of the three sections and includes the vast majority of Yalobusha County, as well as portions of Grenada, Tallahatchie, Lafayette and Quitman counties.
“I really think we will have it available to everybody in 24 months after construction starts,” Robison said about the availability of high speed internet for customers in Phase Three.
Robison said the starting point for construction in Phase Three has not been determined.
“Exactly where they start depends on the engineering side, we are not sure which side of I-55,” Robison explained. Phase Three has almost 1,150 miles of fiber that will be attached to TVEPA’s utility poles. The main lines will be constructed first, then the lateral lines. The splicing crews will be working behind them to get the service to the homes and businesses.
“When we start, people are going to start seeing the coils on the poles, they will see those guys working. Then it is going to be some time before service is available. Just because the splicers have to come through,” he continued.
Robison encouraged TVEPA customers to register for the service on TVIfiber’s website.
“The people who sign up, when the service becomes available, those are the ones we call first,” he explained. “They will be towards the front of the line.”
Robison stressed that the crews are working as fast as possible.
“We are doing over 100 miles a month. I talked to our distributor where we purchase our fiber. We are using more than any other co-op in three states,” Robison added. “We want to move as fast as we can, but it is quality and quantity. I don’t want to just put it out there and it not be a good product. We have to hold the reins and make sure that we are also doing quality control.”