Access to high speed Internet connections grows more important every day. For businesses in Rural America it can make the difference between success and layoffs and loss of rural population.
To answer the call for advanced services, North Central Telephone Cooperative (NCTC) is partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development (RD) and The Rural Utilities Services (RUS) to expand upon its high speed Internet network. Via a new fiber to the home network, NCTC will bring very high speed Internet and more to approximately 15,000 households and 1000 businesses in Macon, Smith and Sumner Counties, Tennessee.
Groundbreaking for the initial construction was held today by RD State Director Bobby Goode and NCTC President/CEO Nancy White at NCTC’s Maple Grove central office in Lafayette.
"This is the historical beginning of claiming the NCTC network as one with select broadband privilege and part of the nation’s foundation for defining the next universal tie to global communication for all citizens,” said White.
“We don’t have an interstate highway system today that brings the traffic direct to our service area. The best way I can see how to imagine building a sustainable foundation for our economy here is through broadband," said White. "This funding allows North Central to provide something even better — an infrastructure that will make this area very attractive to business and industry," said White.
NCTC was awarded recovery Act funding through a USDA Rural Development low interest infrastructure loan of $24,964,000 and a grant of $24,715,709. The investment will be used to deploy a Fiber-To-The-Premises network to remote and rural communities. The system will be capable of delivering bandwidth in excess of 20 mbps to provide Internet, Television and Telephone services at affordable prices.
"Broadband access is no longer optional," said Goode. "Education, healthcare and every kind of business depends on the Internet. Whether it’s receiving orders or specifications, searching for the best price for parts, or working from home, it takes more speed to handle the work load."
Local Hospital Administrator, Dennis Wolford, says the fiber that NCTC installed for the hospital this year has made a tremendous difference. For example, an MRI image is now sent to any place requested in seconds rather than minutes.
“We look forward to implementing even more telemedicine applications thanks to the fiber network that NCTC is building,” says Wolford.
Goode observed that, "Broadband service in this area will soon be significantly faster than what is available in many urban areas. "
Others participating in the event included members of NCTC Board of Directors: Royce Halliburton, Glen Hardcastle, Shelvy Linville, Randy Harston, Jerry Kirby, Dewey McCall, Jon Hesson, Jeff Roark and Calvin Graves; Macon County Mayor Shelvy Linville; Lafayette Mayor J.Y. Carter as well as State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver and State Senator Mae Beavers; State Director for RUS, Bobby Goode; RD Telecommunications Program Director Terry Kokinda and RD Area Director Jerry Jolley.
White said, "NCTC was one of the first to receive one of the competitive awards because we were able to show the substantial difference that broadband technology will make to our rural area by example of how it has already made a difference to our local hospital and others. Fiber to the premise means the people of our community can telecommute, start new businesses and actively grow this community in new ways. That’s what we believe to be the heart of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.”
So far, more than $109 million in Recovery Act loans and grants has been invested by USDA in broadband projects for people and businesses in rural Tennessee. With new or increased broadband access, communities can compete on a level playing field to attract new businesses, schools can create distance learning opportunities, medical professionals can provide cost-efficient remote diagnoses and care, and business owners can expand the market for their products beyond their neighborhoods to better compete in the global economy.
According to analysis released by the National Economic Council last year, the $2.4 billion in Recovery Act investments in broadband nationwide are expected to create tens of thousands of jobs in the near term and expand economic development and job opportunities in communities that would otherwise be left behind in the new knowledge-based economy.
Construction is already simultaneously underway in the city of Lafayette, Sumner County and Smith County. "It's more than just a few jobs, this means that our service community and customers will have a place in the new possibilities of broadband technology that will deliver their own economic futures for generations to come," White believes.
The Recovery Act is designed to jumpstart the nation's economy, create or save millions of jobs and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges so our country can thrive in the 21st century. The Act includes measures to modernize our nation's infrastructure, enhance energy independence, expand educational opportunities, preserve and improve affordable health care, provide tax relief, and protect those in greatest need.
More information about USDA’s Recovery Act efforts is available at www.usda.gov/recovery.
NCTC serves more than 20,000 access lines throughout the central Tennessee and southern Kentucky corridor. It provides customers both in the cooperative service area as well as their CLEC area of Scottsville, KY, wireline, bundled, broadband and video services. NCTC and its competitive carrier, NCC, are also vested in wireless partnerships as well as that of network management services, optical transport and off-air transport. NCTC began as a member-owned telco in the early 1950s and is one of the nation’s largest independent telecommunications cooperative networks today.
USDA Rural Development invests in jobs, businesses, community infrastructure, homeownership and affordable rental housing in rural communities. Last year Rural Development assisted more than 1.5 million Tennessee families and businesses with more than a billion dollars in financial assistance through affordable loans, loan guarantees and grants. More than 75 percent of these investments will be paid back with interest.
For more information on Rural Development programs available in Macon County contact the Rural Development Area Office in Cookeville at 931-528-6539, ext. 2, toll free at (800) 342-3149 ext. 1493 or visit us online at www.rurdev.usda.gov/tn.