Broadband internet and Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative: Why we need investment from our local cooperative

Letter

PUBLISHER’s NOTE: The writer intends to run for a position on the Board of Directors for Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative. This piece was submitted as an op/ed to Page Valley News.

Many residents in the Shenandoah Valley lack access to reliable, affordable broadband internet. It’s time to work toward a future where every resident has fast internet to the home. The benefits of broadband are well documented. They include: better jobs, higher property values, improved educational outcomes, attracting and retaining businesses for the community, and flexibility for working families. 

A recent poll found that 78 percent of Americans support investments in broadband infrastructure. Employers recruit and retain workers based on access to broadband, and home-based businesses rely on fast, reliable connections. 

Across Virginia, electric cooperatives are working to ensure that every member/owner can access broadband internet. Our southern neighbor, BARC Electric Cooperative is running fiber to homes in Bath and Rockbridge. BARC Connects, a subsidiary company of the electric cooperative provides fast, affordable internet, phone and television services. Traversing mountains to reach remote locations, BARC has proven that geography is not a barrier to service.

Central Virginia Electric Cooperative and Rappahannock Electric Cooperative are working on projects in Nelson and Louisa. Floyd County in Southwest Virginia is running broadband internet to every home. Yet roughly 40 percent of homes in Page County lack affordable broadband internet access. It’s time for SVEC to invest in communities across the Shenandoah Valley to provide access and choice to all cooperative members through “last mile” projects that offer 100 mbps speeds. That’s the investment we need for the future. 

How do we get there? SVEC and local municipal and county governments can form public-private partnerships to take advantage of the broadband funding that’s available now. The alternative is to watch broadband investment dollars go to other regions of the state. Policy changes in Richmond are necessary also, allowing local partnerships to compete with legacy carriers.

Electric cooperatives across the United States are investing in their communities by creating regional broadband working groups to guide the process. We should do the same here in the valley. SVEC members are already paying for a $40 million dollar “middle mile” fiber project across the service area. Let’s make it a “last mile” project for the direct benefit of every household who wants the service. 

If SVEC offered fast, affordable and reliable internet would you choose them for your service? That choice would support investment in local jobs and infrastructure. In 1936, SVEC was chartered to bring electricity to homes and farms. In 2021, the cooperative can “work for the sustainable development of their community” by taking on the challenge of broadband.       

What can you do?  Vote in the SVEC director’s election this summer. Every member will receive a ballot in the mail with instructions on returning it or voting online. I’m running for the director position to “put members first” by addressing the challenges that will improve our communities. 

The cooperative is well positioned to invest and advance the interests of all residents. Make your voice count by voting this summer for investment in the future. 

Shaun Mooney ~ Mount Sidney, Va.

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