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ARC gives $1.5 million grant

Washington Electric Cooperative announced Wednesday that it is the recipient of a $1.5 million grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) for a project aimed at expediting fiber broadband deployment in southeast Ohio.

The Noble County Grid Modernization and Make-Ready for Broadband Deployment project will cost a total of $2.1 million and will upgrade 215 miles of main-line electrical routes to increase grid resiliency and enable an internet service provider to cost effectively deploy fiber along these routes. Approximately 90 percent of the project will occur in southern Noble County, one of the most unserved areas in the state for broadband availability.

The affected electrical distribution routes will also extend into adjacent areas of Morgan, Monroe, and Washington counties, reaching additional unserved or underserved areas. The upgraded routes will reach 1,392 of the cooperative’s member-consumers.

An earlier POWER grant funded the broadband feasibility study upon which the current grant is based.

While Washington Electric itself is not planning to be the ISP, the make-ready work the grant allows will ensure that the cooperative’s poles are strong enough to accept the additional cable/fiber attachment and guarantee necessary clearances between electric facilities and the ground. This will be a significant benefit to the ISP, who would normally be responsible for the make-ready work and costs.

The project launched in October 2021 and is expected to take 12 to 24 months to complete.

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