Funding Broadband in
Macon County - NTIA
Broadband Infrastructure Grant

The National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA) of the US Dept of Commerce announced a grant funding opportunity this spring for broadband infrastructure. Though this $288M fund for the country is not as large as some of the recent FCC and USDA programs, it is a bit groundbreaking. Unserved areas, such as parts of Macon County, are more easily qualified for these funds, and it is specifically intended for public/private partnerships.

Macon County in partnership with Balsam West decided to apply for funds from this grant program to help cover the cost of constructing new fiber broadband networks in two parts of the county. The areas are illustrated in the following map.

NTIA Macon Overview 081721

The first proposed area in south Macon represents Phase 2 of the South Macon Broadband Expansion project that was kicked off last spring. Phase 1 of this project is currently funded and underway, and will construct a fiber backbone from Franklin to Scaly Mountain, making the Otto and Scaly Mountain Community Centers and the Sky Valley-Scaly Mountain Volunteer Fire & Rescue internet hotspots. Once the backbone is complete, Phase 2 calls for expansion of fiber broadband service from this backbone into the surrounding communities of East Otto and Scaly Mountain.

The second proposed area is located in the Nantahala township of northwest Macon. For this project, existing fiber broadband service that runs to Nantahala High School would be expanded into the community.

Development of this application was a true team effort. Macon County is the official grant applicant with Balsam West as the Internet Service Provider and development partner. The Dogwood Trust provided assistance by covering the cost of professional grant writing services, and LittleT Broadband provided GIS and data analysis support. The final application was submitted to NTIA on August 17.

It is expected that the grant awards will be announced by November 15, 2021. Though Macon County and its development partners are hopeful to win a grant from this program, the outcome of the process is not certain as it is a national competition for funds. For this reason, the application team is already setting its sights on the next funding opportunities that will become available later this year.