LittleT Feburary Update
In September of 2019, the Macon County Board of County Commissioners voted 4:1 to provide a grant of $178,000 to Little T Broadband Services (LTBS… a 501(c)3 non-profit enterprise). Subsequent to that, the grant was essentially withdrawn by the County due to legal constraints. These constraints, prescribed in one of several NC statutes addressing grants, prevent local governments from actually funding any broadband-related grant to entities other than an established ISP. After several meetings between the county, LTBS, and on one occasion Balsam West, the County decided they can fund a grant to Balsam West. As Balsam West is an established ISP, the County believes they could fund a grant on their behalf for the same purposes as those included in the original LTBS request. While Balsam West was and remains amenable to this approach, the exact way in which it could be made to work is still being developed by LTBS and Balsam West.
LTBS will not be applying for the current round of USDA/RUS grants. Unfortunately the current requirements of this grant program foreclose any consideration of an application from LTBS or any other community driven initiative, as they are structured to favor established ISPs and telecommunication companies. We will revisit USDA/RUS when they announce another funding opportinity round later this year. In the meantime, we are pursuing other grant and funding opportunities.
We have also launched a “Fast-Start” initiative, with the objective of quickly bringing broadband to the Scaly and Otto Community Centers and Volunteer Fire Departments (VFDs). This initiative would leverage existing HEMC fiber with new fiber extensions. The plan remains in the formative stages, but we anticipate submitting another grant request to Macon County under the auspices of Balsam West and others within the next few weeks.