Upcountry Fiber, the joint endeavor by Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative and West Carolina Telephone Cooperative to bring broadband to unserved and underserved areas, is showing impressive results. From a starting point in January 2021 until now, approximately 6,000 customers have been connected to our high speed internet system. On average, more than 100 new connects are being added each week. By the end of this year, Upcountry Fiber expects to be providing more than 8,000 accounts with quality fiber-to-the home service. There are several reasons for optimism about the future of this project. Upcountry Fiber construction crews have installed more than 800 miles of cable. Plans call for another 1,400 miles of fiber cable to be extended into parts of the Blue Ridge territory that presently have little or no broadband access.
Early on, Blue Ridge and West Carolina made sure to secure ample inventories of fiber cable and associated materials before embarking on this construction program. Those considerable stocks serve to position Upcountry Fiber to move full speed ahead with this work. Recently, the state of South Carolina rolled out a $400 million process for internet suppliers to apply for grants to fund expanding the service into unserved communities. Upcountry Fiber is currently applying for a significant portion of this funding to help expedite our build out into these areas.
Moreover, the availability of these funds would serve to shorten the time required to bring broadband to those awaiting the service. Blue Ridge CEO Jim Lovinggood recently commented on the overall outlook for the broadband initiative. “It’s so gratifying to hear from folks who are obviously enthusiastic about their new internet service. At the same time, I know there are multitudes of households and businesses and the like—myself included—who are anxious to see the cable-installing crews show up at their locations. My guarantee to all of these is that we’re moving as fast as we can to make that happen. I sincerely look forward to the day when everyone who wants broadband will have it.”