Mark Clasby, Executive Director of the Haywood County Economic Development Commission and the nonprofit Haywood Advancement Foundation, announced the new MCNC Broadband fiber optic network will become operational this summer.
Broadband is high-speed Internet access through fiber optic cables that provides faster data transmission for huge amounts of information.
Clasby said broadband Internet is like a major U.S. Interstate Highway compared to a small two-lane road. Just as more cars are able to travel faster on the interstate, broadband allows vast amounts of data to be transmitted almost instantly.
“You can transmit an incredible amount of information over this,” Clasby said. “Businesses, government, medical (facilities), particularly hospitals, have the need to send massive amounts of information, and we’ll need to do even more in the future. For us to be competitive in a rural area, this is vital to our future.”
The funding for the project comes from $255 million in federal recovery grants North Carolina has received to extend broadband throughout the state and from the Golden LEAF Foundation’s Rural Broadband Initiative. The project is being managed by the state nonprofit group Making Connections in North Carolina (MCNC).
“Their mission is to connect rural counties like ourselves for government use, hospitals and schools. It’s a big project statewide,” Clasby said. “This will allow us to have the government municipalities, some of the schools and the hospital connected.”
Currently there is already a small 8-mile fiber optic line in Haywood County, running from the Regional High Technology Center to the Sheriff’s office, which the county and town of Waynesville use, but the connection is limited. Another goal is to connect the existing cable into the new line, which Clasby said will be both more efficient and create redundancy in the connection in case one of the lines ever gets damaged.
Getting Haywood County connected is an important step in strengthening the area’s economy, Clasby said.
“It will make the county more competitive and keep us on a level playing field with larger cities,” he said, adding the next goal would be to potentially connect private businesses. “I’m hoping in the next year or two, we’ll have the ability to expand that. We’re getting there.”