Access to solid internet connections are crucial to America’s rural communities. Agriculture is positively impacted by the IoT, helping to enhance nature’s ability to produce more sustainably with less harm to the environment. Economies of these rural communities are positively impacted by the increase in job availability to its residents. Internet access allows remote employees to work from anywhere using VoIP, Salesforce.com, Office 365, etc.
In Western North Carolina’s Polk County, there are very limited options. Windstream is the LEC and Charter the local MSO/cable provider. They don’t provide access everywhere, especially for smaller businesses and residential customers. Some have even taken it upon themselves to petition Charter for service. Fiber optic connectivity is available to larger mid-market companies in the area and the more that they order fiber optics, the more available it becomes to others close by. Pangaea is a non-profit ISP that sees the value in bringing Internet to these communities, and is doing a great job building out their network.
The Tryon Daily Bulletin had an article on October 19th where Keith Conover, the Technical Assistance Director of the NC Department of Commerce stated that there were a lot of options to get broadband in rural areas. While this is true for businesses with larger orders, it isn’t as true for small businesses and residents. That said the more businesses moving to the area ordering and ordering fiber increases the chances to get more access for the rest.
There are very few fiber routes, especially long haul, nearby. Recently, we’ve received quotes from both AT&T and Windstream for fiber optic dedicated internet access in Mill Spring, so it is certainly available for businesses. The article above mentioned requesting Windstream reuse some of its old infrastructure. In reality, the value resides in the Right of Ways, not the infrastructure. It would probably be more cost effective to deploy new fiber optic network, like Pangaea is doing, than to resurrect old infrastructure.
Right of Way and permitting are the long poles in the tent when it comes to building out fiber optic networks and providing service to end users. VoIP can have a huge impact on the revenue requirements to satisfy financial hurdles, however, the FCC does allow carriers in rural areas to restrict number porting, in turn, limiting competition.
Getting better access and competition in rural areas like Polk County North Carolina is a bit of “chicken or the egg” scenario in that we need more businesses to come to the area in order to extend high speed availability while the availability of high speed internet is what will attract businesses to the area. Although I disagree with Keith Conover’s statement that there are a lot of options for residents in the area, the same can’t be said for businesses. They have options and if done correctly can have an impact on their bottom line as well as that of the greater community.