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First Homeowners Connected to High-Speed Internet in Northeast Caldwell County Thanks To GREAT Grant

LENOIR, NC (January 13, 2022) — Recently, the first Caldwell County homeowner was connected to high-speed internet as part of the GREAT (Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology) grant project led by Blue Ridge Energy and SkyBest Communications.

To date, more than 20 homes are connected and residents in Phase I are eligible for service to be connected at their location. To determine eligibility and sign up, interested residents are encouraged to visit www.SkyBest.com/CaldwellGrant21 or call SkyBest Communications at 1-800-759-2226. Phase I includes Charlie Triplett Road, O’hennesy Lane, Yadkin Lane, Mariah Drive, Quinella Lane and Chetola Drive as well as parts of Steeltown and Indian Grave Roads in that area.

Pictured left to right are Jason Smith, director of communication technology with Blue Ridge Energy; Bob Taylor, field service technician with SkyBest Communications; and Blake Bouillion, Caldwell resident and the first homeowner connected to high-speed internet as part of the GREAT grant project.

Fiber-optic infrastructure construction is well underway in Phases II and III, which includes the Buffalo Cove area and extends east to the Wilkes County line.  With no weather or supply chain delays, SkyBest High-Speed Internet is expected to become available in Phase II in fall 2022 and Phase III in early 2023.

The extensive project requires approximately 60 miles of above ground construction and eight miles of underground construction of fiber in the rocky, mountainous terrain of northern Caldwell County. Due to the size of the project and challenging topography, work will be completed in three phases over approximately two years. After Blue Ridge Energy completes construction to a community, SkyBest Communications will begin offering its high-speed internet there.

The grant-funded area includes more than 400 homes and businesses located off Hwy 268 from Indian Grave Road to the Wilkes County line where no internet service is currently available, other than satellite or cellular service.

As a member-owned cooperative serving some 78,000 members in Caldwell, Watauga, Ashe, Alleghany, Avery, Wilkes and Alexander counties, Blue Ridge Energy has a long history of supporting economic development and other initiatives in communities served by the cooperative.

The grant is especially critical because of the expense to build infrastructure to serve rural communities: nationally based internet service providers have not extended high-speed internet service to areas like northern Caldwell County because it’s extremely expensive to build the infrastructure in sparsely populated rural areas, especially those with rocky, mountainous terrain. As a result, some local communities don’t have access to digital services that most people rely on for basic needs such as education and job opportunities.

Blue Ridge Energy plans to continue working with SkyBest Communications to pursue additional state or federal grants for other parts of northern Caldwell County and across Blue Ridge Energy’s service area that do not have high-speed internet access.

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Blue Ridge Energy serves some 78,000 members in Caldwell, Watauga, Ashe, Alleghany, and parts of Wilkes, Avery and Alexander counties. Its propane and fuels subsidiary serves customers in the cooperative’s service area as well as Burke, Catawba, and Grayson County, Va. Learn more at www.BlueRidgeEnergy.com.

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SkyBest Communications is a wholly-owned subsidiary of SkyLine Membership Corp., a telecommunications cooperative based in West Jefferson.  SkyBest Communications has provided internet access to homes and businesses in Ashe, Alleghany, Watauga and Avery counties in North Carolina and Shady Valley, Tennessee since 1995. They began offering fiber-optic internet service in downtown Lenoir and parts of Lower Creek in 2017.


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