Construction Has Begun on the
South Macon Backbone!

Jeff Lee, LittleT Broadband

We are pleased to announce that construction on the South Macon Backbone project has begun this week. The fiber backbone network will extend from the south end of Franklin city limits, down 441 to Brown Rd. From Brown Rd, it will extend along the Haywood EMC power poles over the ridge to the Tessentee valley, and then on up to Scaly Mountain. Eventually this backbone network will be extended along the Dillard Rd to Highlands. Balsam West is the provider that has planned and is coordinating this construction project.

This fiber backbone is the first phase of the South Macon Broadband Expansion Project which is a collaboration between Macon County, Balsam West, and LittleT Broadband. Creation of a backbone network is the first step required to bring high speed internet into the southern part of the county, and will support expansion of service into residential and business areas.

It has taken a substantial amount of work to reach this milestone. As you drive along 441 and see communication contractors burying orange and blue conduit or stringing fiber along poles, you might think of this as the first part of an iceberg sticking out of the water. Though you only see a little above water, there is a large amount of ice below water that cannot be seen. That part you cannot see represents several years of hard work to plan, develop relationships and agreements, secure funding, order materials, and finally to kick off construction.

Once the backbone network is complete to Scaly Mountain, as part of the agreement between Balsam West and Macon County, high speed internet service will be provided to the Otto and Scaly Mountain Community Centers, and to the Sky Valley-Scaly Mountain Volunteer Fire and Rescue facility. We are also pleased to announce that LittleT Broadband is being awarded a grant through the Western Regional Commission to fund the installation of public hotspots at the Otto and Scaly Mountain Community Centers, and the Sky Valley-Scaly Mountain VFR facility. These grant funds are being made available through the state of North Carolina Student Connect program.

LittleT has begun coordinating with the Community Association and the VFR organizations to plan creation of these public hotspots. Our goal is to light up all three hotspots in January 2022 when the backbone network is complete to Scaly Mountain.

With the completion of the backbone network, targeted for January 2022 barring weather or other unforeseen delays, the next phase of the South Macon Broadband Expansion Project will be to begin the work of extending high speed service into the surrounding community. Macon County in partnership with Balsam West currently has a grant application pending with the federal National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA). This grant funding, if received, will be used to fund creation of fiber to the home service in the East Otto, Scaly Mountain, and the Nantahala Lake communities. See our previous news post here.

Grant awards for this program will be announced by NTIA on November 15th, and these results will determine our next steps. If grant monies are received from NTIA, construction could immediately begin on the expansion from the South Macon backbone and at Nantahala Lake. If this grant application is rejected, we will need refocus our efforts to apply for other federal and state grant awards.

It is nice to have the opportunity to announce some visible progress. Thank you to all who have supported the efforts of LittleT broadband.