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PANGAEA ‘hidden gem’ with impact

Map showing the approximate location of PANGAEA's fiber optic lines in Polk County.

170 miles of fiber optic in Polk/Rutherford counties

After beginning in 2003, the nonprofit PANGAEA now has 170 miles of fiber optic network in Polk and Rutherford counties and is connected regionally to Charlotte.

The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday, Dec. 5 and heard an update from Ron Walters, executive director of PANGAEA.

“[PANGAEA is] a hidden gem that is making a big impact. It’s important for people to understand what we’ve built here,” Walters said. “We now have a 170-mile fiber optic network in two counties.”

PANGAEA has received more than $3 million in funding since its creation, including funding from Polk County government and schools, the Polk County Community Foundation, Rural Internet Access (e-NC), the Rutherford County government and schools, Facebook, AdvantageWest, Z. Smith Foundation, the Golden Leaf Foundation, CooperRiis and the Anne L. Turner and Geoffrey M. Tennant Foundation.

All Polk County schools are equipped with PANGAEA’s fiber optic network except Saluda, and work is currently under way to get Saluda School connected. Rutherford County schools also have the fiber optic network, as do numerous health care facilities and governments.

PANGAEA currently has 81 customers at more than 120 locations, with plans to connect many more in the next 12 to 18 months, Walters said. Customers in addition to Polk and Rutherford county schools include Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy, Lake Lure Classical Academy, Isothermal Community College at both the Polk and Rutherford locations and the governments of Polk and Rutherford counties and the Towns of Tryon, Lake Lure, Forest City and Rutherfordton. Other users include organizations at the Polk County Agriculture Center in Mill Spring, where Walters said PANGAEA has 10 customers.

Polk County’s partnership with PANGAEA means the county has 12 strands of fiber from Tryon to Mill Spring, 12 strands of fiber from Lake Lure to Sandy Plains and 18 strands of fiber from Sandy Plains to the Green Creek Fire Department.

“Our fiber is near the Polk Industrial Park, Grover Industries and Woodland Mills,” Walters said. “There are all kinds of opportunities.”

PANGAEA has also provided bandwidth to the “construction city” for Facebook in Rutherford County as well as some employees’ homes who need the high-speed connectivity.

Walters said PANGAEA hopes to get the bandwidth to individual residential customers in the future but needs a partner to administer the service.

Walters said the connection has proved to be extremely reliable. He said service hasn’t been down in two years, and the network also has back-up equipment and power sources. Walters also said PANGAEA has a strong cash flow with $200,000 in reserves with customized pricing, economic development and job growth and the company uses local subcontractors.

“It is a community-owned nonprofit that is focused on the community, not shareholders,” Walter said.

For more information visit www.pangaea.us.