Tuesday, October 09, 2018

How high-speed internet came to a remote area of Tenn.

Scott County (Wikipedia map)
Seven years ago, the internet speed in Highland, a town in rural Scott County, Tennessee, was 1.5 megabits per second, but today the county boasts a fiber network with some of the fastest speeds in the state. The improvement in Highland and other rural areas of Tennessee is a testament to how community leaders can use grants most effectively to improve infrastructure. 

"The recent upgrades that include 2,700 miles of fiber installation stem from a $67 million federal grant awarded to Highland Telephone Cooperative in 2010, part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act," Jamie McGee reports for The Tennessean. "Twenty-five percent of the grant was a loan that will cost the cooperative $17 million over a 25-year period." About 60 percent of the county has adopted the high-speed internet and almost all businesses have signed up for it.

Running fiber-optic cable to every house would have been prohibitively expensive; the county has only three homes per square mile. And with 18 percent unemployment, it needed the jobs high-speed internet could bring. Highland CEO and General Manager Mark Patterson said, "We would never have had the funding to do this without the grant. . . . It’s just too expensive for a company this size."

Tennessee Telecommunications Association Executive Director Levoy Knowles told McGee that small telephone co-ops and other companies have been building out "hundreds of thousands of miles" of fiber a year in recent years, but says state tax credits would help them do more. Educating more residents about what high-speed internet can do in their lives would increase adoption rates and make the investment more feasible for providers, he said.

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