New RFP Approved by Macon County

Jeff Lee, LittleT Broadband

A recent article in the Macon County news has prompted a number of questions from Otto and Scaly Residents.

Specifically, how does this RFP (Request For Proposals) affect the work in progress by LittleT Broadband?

The short answer is that this RFP was created on our behalf.

As you may recall, the Macon County Commissioners voted last September to allocate grant money for LittleT Broadband to support planning work on a network for the Otto and Scaly Mtn areas. This approval was given provisionally, pending review by the county attorney. This money was never given to LittleT, as the county attorney believes that NC counties do not have the legal authority to provide grant money in that way.

Much of the planning and initial engineering work for which that initial money was targeted has now been accomplished through other means. We worked with our partners Balsam West and Haywood EMC to develop a detailed plan. This plan was then forwarded to the county.

Fast forward to this past spring. After several rounds of meetings and discussions between Macon County officials, Balsam West, and Little T, a new request was made for the $580K which is mentioned in the RFP. This money is targeted to fund the construction of a fiber backbone leg from Franklin to Otto, where it will meet up with other fiber owned by Haywood EMC. Other portions of the backbone network are being funded through other means. Currently, no high-speed network extends through the Otto and Scaly areas, so construction of this new backbone is vital for any high-speed internet development/expansion whatsoever.

Though most of the commissioners have been very supportive, the county attorney insisted that the only way the money could be allocated was as a grant awarded via an RFP to an established ISP (Internet Service Provider). So at the request of the county attorney, an RFP was drafted by the NC DIT Broadband Division, and the commissioners officially approved it this past week.

Though the RFP is worded (as required by NC law) to be open to any internet service provider, to our knowledge there are no other providers with plans ready to create the needed expansion and waiting to respond and bid on this. Little T is working directly with Balsam West to prepare and deliver an RFP response to Macon County. The expansion plan for southern Macon County is the one that has already been developed by Little T and Balsam West, and Balsam West is the designated ISP.

Though we were hoping to avoid a forced jump through this hoop, it is indeed progress.