Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
Just a year after rural counties across North Carolina received nearly $10 million in grant funding to boost broadband connectivity, residents in Macon County will soon begin the process of connecting to faster speeds.
Morris Broadband was one of 14 companies in North Carolina to receive funding as part of the North Carolina GREAT (Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology) grant program.
Morris Broadband began construction in the last quarter of 2019 with plans to provide internet access to 240 homes within Macon County. The project was estimated to cost $667,000 which included $433,550 in state grant money along with a $233,450 investment from Morris.
Morris Broadband currently provides just under 3,500 residences in Macon County with internet services. The 240 homes are located in various outlying areas of the county. Expanded access will affect homes on Gibson Cove Road, Granny Kate Lane, Stoudemire Drive, Schurman Cove Road, Annes Lane, Gibson Cove Estates Road, Willow Wind Heights, Willowbrook Estates, Bryson City Road, Iotla Church Road, Quail Hollow Road, Riverbend Road, Liner Drive, Iotla Hill Drive, Olsen Drive, Bennett Road, Sanderstown Road, Rain Ridge Road, Red Fox Lane, Buster Cabe Road, Tranquil Road, Holbrooks Road, Piney Grove Road, Lee Bates Road, Kangas Drive, Country Walk, Circle Trace, Dillon Drive, Main Trace, Center Trace, East Trace, Southern Trace, Dowdle Mountain Road, Wells Grove Road, Jennings Drive, Angel Cove Road, Chapel Cove Circle, Brookshire Lane, Oakridge Drive and Hunters Trail.
On Tuesday morning, Anthony Carter, General Manager of Morris Broadband, said that work has been completed and those residents will soon be able to sign up for service. The Dowdle Trace/Country Walk area is complete and will be released for installation orders on July 28, followed by the Chapel Cove Area which is on track to be completed in three weeks, with another 30 days until the release for orders.
The Gibson Cove area has 90 days to be completed and then 30 days before installation orders are to be released. The Bryson City Road and Wells Grove Areas of the county are 6-10 months from being completed, with significant construction work needing to be done to replace poles, which requires major fiber construction.
Construction is scheduled to begin for the Hunters Trace Area at the end of August, and should take three months to complete.
The North Carolina House of Representatives introduced legislation that would provide an additional $30 million to the GREAT program as well as allow Tier 2 counties like Macon to be eligible. If approved by the Senate in September, companies like Morris Broadband would be able to apply for funding for additional projects in Macon County.