PANGAEA Internet applies for grant that would serve 2,500 to 3,000 additional locations
Published 10:15 am Thursday, June 30, 2022
TRYON – As a continuation of its 20 year commitment to enhance economic development and improve the quality of life in our community, PANGAEA Internet (PANGAEA) has applied for a North Carolina GREAT grant that would serve 2,500 to 3,000 additional customers in Rutherford County.
“PANGAEA is very excited to announce that we applied for a GREAT grant on May 4, 2022,” said Ron Walters, Executive Director. “We are uniquely positioned to maximize the grant impact by utilizing our 400 miles of fiber optic network infrastructure, low nonprofit cost structure, outstanding customer service, and strong community partnerships to provide 1 GB (gigabit) download and 1 GB upload fiber service to many unserved homes and businesses in Rutherford County. If the GREAT grant is awarded, this $7.1 million project will include matching contributions from Rutherford County government and PANGAEA.”
Since 2003, PANGAEA has used approximately $6 million of grant and partner funds and reinvested operating income to build a state-of-the-art fiber optic network. Walters emphasized that community focus is always at the forefront, demonstrated by the fact that PANGAEA has paid $661,000 of customer installation costs since 2009. This has allowed most customers to receive a free installation. The result has been 25-50% annual customer growth and 100% of PANGAEA’s customers said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the service.
PANGAEA currently serves every public and charter school in Polk and Rutherford counties, seven municipal and two county governments (including libraries and fire stations), Isothermal Community College, St. Luke’s and Rutherford Regional hospitals, as well as many medical offices and pharmacies and hundreds of commercial customers. PANGAEA also provides wholesale service to other internet service providers that serve thousands of additional customers. In order to assist families during COVID, PANGAEA also started connecting homes when possible to allow remote working and remote student education.
In partnership with Rutherford County government and schools, Carolina Community Broadband Alliance (CCBA) is also in the process of constructing 100-foot monopole towers at seven sites. One additional site is already operational at Sunshine Elementary School. These locations will be used to provide fixed wireless service to some of the most unserved and underserved areas. They will also be used as data centers to allow additional fiber optic infrastructure to be built and more homes connected.
Challenges remain. Polk and Rutherford Counties are very difficult areas to serve due to the rural, mountainous, and heavily wooded terrain. Supply chain disruptions are significantly impacting fiber optic cable, equipment, and contract labor. However, PANGAEA and CCBA remain committed to identifying funding and broadband solutions for the service areas suffering the most.