The Noble County Grid Modernization and Make Ready for Broadband Deployment project is one of 57 awards across 184 coal-impacted counties receiving a total of $46.4 million.
With the help of a $1.5 million grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), Washington Electric Cooperative has launched a project to expedite and support 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 (ISP) 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.
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.
The ARC award is part of a nearly $46.4 million package supporting 57 projects across 184 coal-impacted counties through ARC's POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative. POWER targets federal resources to communities affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries.