EMPOWER Finalizes Acquisition of BIT System

EMPOWER Broadband’s Chairman of the Board of Directors David Jones (left) and President of the BIT Board of Directors Linsey Carroll sign the agreement to commence the merger of the two communications organizations. The acquisition of BIT by EMPOWER became official on March 31, 2020 upon the closing and approval of the State Corporation Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.

Officials with EMPOWER Broadband and EMPOWER Telecom, Inc., have announced the acquisition of Buggs Island Telephone Cooperative’s (BIT) system and its resources. After two years of deliberation between the two entities and approval from the Virginia State Corporation Commission and the Federal Communications Commission, the acquisition became official with the final closing on March 31. The efforts and resources of BIT will be combined with those of EMPOWER to supply essential communications services of high-speed internet and telephone to those living in Southside Virginia, and Northern North Carolina.

According to BIT’s bylaws, approval by at least two-thirds of the membership was required for the acquisition to proceed and BIT members were called upon to provide their consent. The voting for this proposal occurred this past fall between October 7 and November 14; the campaign concluded with a Special Meeting of BIT members where it was announced that the proposal had passed overwhelmingly. A total of 76.5 percent of the membership voted to approve the transaction…easily surpassing the established requirement.

Former BIT Board of Directors chairperson Linsey Carroll stated, “To meet the growing communications needs of today’s families and businesses, BIT was faced with the massive and costly undertaking of replacing the aging existing copper telephone network with a Fiber-to-the-Premise system. When our sister Cooperative, Mecklenburg Electric, approached the BIT board about joining forces with their affiliate, EMPOWER Broadband, to deploy fiber across our area, the BIT board thoroughly discussed and evaluated the proposal. As we weighed the advantages, and disadvantages, of moving forward together, and gave the proposal thorough consideration, the option that clearly served the best interests of BIT’s members became clear…together was undeniably better. 

She added, “Accordingly, our board strongly supported EMPOWER’s acquisition of BIT’s employees and resources, a recommendation that was soundly re-affirmed by a vote of BIT’s membership. The former BIT Directors are all very proud and honored to have served the BIT membership and we look forward to watching EMPOWER thrive and work aggressively to bridge the digital divide that is so apparent in times like these.”

Former BIT General Manager, Michele Taylor, states, “Both BIT and EMPOWER were building fiber-to-the-home for internet and phone service into the same areas. Since both of our organizations had the common mission of bringing enhanced communication service to our members and our region, discussions arose on how combining our forces would allow us to do the job more efficiently and effectively. BIT’s team of employees is excited to join with EMPOWER and expand our collective effort in delivering much needed services to Mecklenburg and Brunswick counties and across Southside Virginia.”

David Jones, chairperson of the EMPOWER Broadband board of directors commented, “We are eager to embark on a promising future for this organization whose success translates into meeting the communications needs of the region.  This acquisition and merger of resources will greatly enhance the very expensive, time-consuming buildout of fiber throughout our communities and will bring to fruition our mission of providing excellent service to current subscribers, and continuously deploying fiber so that we can offer this critically important resource to additional homes and businesses. Our region needs and deserves the same quality broadband that those in other areas of our state and country already enjoy.”

EMPOWER Broadband president and CEO John Lee adds, “EMPOWER Broadband is bringing resilient, best-in-technology internet and voice services to the citizens of Southside Virginia, and we are very proud of the significant role that we are playing in improving the quality of life in our communities.  In today’s unsettling environment we are starkly reminded how wide the gap between urban and rural broadband technology offerings truly is and how important this service is to our students and businesses. Today, high speed broadband is not only needed but it is simple required to study, to work, and to enjoy numerous simple joys of modern life that are a standard in much of the world. Our newly combined team is working to integrate operations and, wherever possible, we’re taking advantage of opportunities to improve service, increase efficiency, decrease costs and continue our aggressive, but disciplined rollout of the best in broadband technology.”

EMPOWER Broadband and EMPOWER Telecom, subsidiaries of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative, were incorporated to offer middle-mile capacity, retail high-speed internet and phone service to Southside Virginia and northern North Carolina. EMPOWER Broadband and EMPOWER Telecom are for-profit businesses, governed by local boards of directors.

For more information, please visit empowermec.net.