High-speed Internet reaches Tapoco
High-speed Internet has finally reached Tapoco Lodge and Meadow Branch, and Graham County leaders are working to bring megabits per second of 1.5 and higher to the 84% of households still crawling along – or unable to access – the information highway.
“Now our challenge is getting access to people in the valleys and hollows,” said Rick Davis, executive director of the Graham Economic Revitalization Team (GREAT).
It’s a challenge caused by the exorbitant cost of extending technology to remote areas.
“No one’s going to give $100 million to a single county,” said Sophia Paulos, economic development director for Graham County. “Buncombe and Haywood counties are in the same boat. It really is a regional problem.”
Paulos believes the answer is also regional.
“The various counties appear ready to participate in a regional effort to get broadband and high-speed Internet in western North Carolina,” said Paulos after attending a meeting devoted to the topic held by the Southwest Commission. “The fact people are looking at it at the regional level is new, like the rural electrification process way back when. High-speed Internet is an essential service like water and electricity. It is no longer a luxury but a necessity.”
That’s why Robin Turner, one of the owners of Tapoco Lodge, paid big bucks to connect to the fiber-optic cable Balsam West just laid in his neighborhood. You see, Balsam West just lays the fiber-optic cable, users still need to tie in. At a cost.
Tapoco cost was $100,000+. But Turner isn’t complaining. He ponied up because he’ll recoup the expense in increased bookings. Tourists want and expect high-speed Internet.
“It’s a huge improvement. Now we’re trying to distribute it throughout the property.”
Turner and other community leaders in western North Carlina believe high-speed Internet is essential, not only to increasing tourism, but to attracting businesses and corporations. And they’re willing to work together to get high-speed.
“A regional approach focusing on increasing Internet access to our rural counties just makes sense. As a region working together, we will be able to leverage more financial assistance and involve more of the internet service providers in reaching citizens in our rural counties,” Davis said.
Balsam West has taken notice of the one-for-all, all-for-one approach.
“In a region that is sparsely populated, partnerships like the one with GREAT and ARC are necessary to help facilitate expansion,” said Terri McElroy, executive director of Balsam West.