TRYON, NC / August 21, 2015 – PANGAEA Internet (PANGAEA), the leading commercial provider of high-speed fiber optic internet service for Polk and Rutherford Counties, is a non-profit company that is focused on the community, not shareholders. As part of this commitment, PANGAEA is involved in several projects designed to enhance economic development, improve the quality of life, and create a broad platform of innovation enabling underserved areas.
Among these projects are multiple efforts to deliver free public Wi-Fi in the PANGAEA service area. After a successful pilot project brought free Wi-Fi to downtown Tryon, a recent grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission has expanded the project to the downtown business districts of Chimney Rock, Lake Lure, and Saluda. As shown in the accompanying graph, use of the service has grown dramatically during the summer tourist season.
“Saluda, Lake Lure, and Chimney Rock Village share a business and tourism corridor,” said Ron Walters, Executive Director of PANGAEA Internet. “They are a hub of tourism in the region and a key driver of employment and economic activity. Our free public Wi-Fi network provides a convenient, reliable, and economical alternative to cellular data services.”
With this expansion of public Wi-Fi, more than 11,000 users have connected to PANGAEA Wi-Fi in the last month. Stu Davidson, PANGAEA’s Operations Director, said “the utilization and performance of this network has far exceeded my expectations. The communities have provided valuable input into the network design and I’m really pleased by the impact it is having.”
Another ongoing Wi-Fi project called “Connect” is a collaboration between PANGAEA, Facebook, the Rutherford County Schools, and the towns of Forest City, Rutherfordton and Spindale. Connect provides free public Wi-Fi service to areas with high concentrations of students, enabling them to take full advantage of Rutherford County Schools’ 1:1 program, which has provided a notebook computer to each middle and high school student since 2011.
Since the project launched, Connect now provides service to more than 5700 users each month. “Connect and our community collaboration continues to invest in our region’s students,” said Walters. “With the increasing number of users we have seen since we began this project, it’s clear that our efforts are making a difference in our communities.”
PANGAEA Internet (pan-GEE-ah) is a non-profit provider of high-speed fiber optic internet service. Our network currently serves customers at over 150 locations across Polk and Rutherford Counties, including public school districts, city and county governments, health care facilities, and local businesses. Visit us online at www.pangaea.us, or contact Executive Director Ron Walters at 828-859-3072.
Broadband Is Like Oxygen to Rural America – What Technology and Companies Will Provide It?
Will Gigabit networks or wireless services best meet the needs of the nation’s rural communities? What options are rural communities missing without good-quality broadband? And when commercial providers are in short supply, how do non-profits, cooperatives and municipal broadband providers help fill the void?
TRYON, NC / April 28, 2015 – PANGAEA Internet (PANGAEA), the leading commercial provider of high-speed fiber optic internet service for Polk and Rutherford Counties, North Carolina, has received the Cornerstone Award from Broadband Communities magazine. The award was presented to PANGAEA Executive Director Ron Walters at the Broadband Communities Summit, held April 14-16 in Austin, TX.
Each year, Broadband Communities assembles a committee of industry leaders, analysts, and writers to honor a select number of recipients for outstanding accomplishments in the area of delivering telecommunications for the benefit of the end user. The 2015 presentation marks PANGAEA’s second Cornerstone Award, having also received the award in 2004.
According to the judging committee, “We can think of no better illustration of the value of a fiber network than the story of this non-profit serving Polk and Rutherford Counties that began on such a small scale and now connects middle mile and last mile customers at some 150 locations, including businesses, healthcare facilities, government offices and all the public schools.”
PANGAEA’s impact on:
Education – “PANGAEA brings a wealth of resources to
students and teachers, helping students compete with
cohorts in much richer school districts.”
Healthcare – “Facilities served by the PANGAEA
network experience greater productivity, speedier access
to information and more effective use of professionals.”
Government – “The local and county governments that are customers of PANGAEA are equipped to communicate with other government entities instantaneously, and to pool resources and reduce costs while improving services.” Judges also noted the impact of PANGAEA Internet on regional economic development, citing PANGAEA’s involvement with the construction of the Facebook data center, the Ameridial call center, and other efforts to support economic growth in Polk and Rutherford counties.
“On behalf of our board of directors, staff and supporters, we are very pleased to be a 2015 Cornerstone Award recipient,” said Walters. “This award acknowledges and reinforces our efforts to support our community and improve the overall quality of life for local residents.”
Ron Walters receives the 2015 Cornerstone Award from Jane Patterson, President, The View Forward – Go Forward. Photo credit: Rachel Ellner for Broadband Communities magazine.
PANGAEA Internet’s grant program is available to assist potential customers with installation costs for our “Speed of Light” fiber optic internet service.
Read more about this program and submit an application on the Grant Application page of our website.
Congratulations to our first quarter winner of a
$200 Invoice Credit
Wanangwa Dever, Polk County Public Library (Columbus)
Read Wanangwa’s testimonial on the Testimonial Page of our website. If you haven’t already submitted a customer testimonial, please take a few minutes and give us your feedback. Just click this link and provide a few sentences regarding how PANGAEA Internet has impacted your organization. The drawing is conducted quarterly.
Welcome to our New Customers
Gilkey Lumber Company (Rutherfordton)
Washburn Law, PLLC (Columbus)
Carolina Computer Solutions (Columbus)
Pisgah Legal Services (Spindale)
Green River Acres, LLC (Lake Lure)
Huckleberry’s Restaurant (Tryon)
Click above to read the “Fast Friends” story featuring Facebook and Isothermal Community College. “Mutually realizing the need for workers with unique and technical skills, Facebook and Isothermal forged a partnership.” PANGAEA Internet currently provides scholarship funds to eligible Isothermal students attending the College Data Center Institute and Network Technologies programs.
Meet the Board
“I am very proud of our organization and what it has done to improve connectivity and internet access in our region. We have effected innovative change in the way government, business, and education communicate. Our Board is comprised of technology professionals who know a great deal about the needs of our community, and it has been a pleasure to serve with them.” -Marche Pittman, Director
Ron Walters, our Executive Director, delivered an interesting presentation to the Tryon Rotary Club last week. Learn more about PANGAEA Internet by visiting our website at http://www.pangaea.us/
Waiting for Spring
Fast Friends – Facebook and Isothermal Community College spark workforce development in North Carolina
by WALTER DALTON (President, Isothermal Community College, email@example.com)
When the ribbon was cut on the Facebook data center in Forest City, N.C., a new day was born. Rutherford County, which had “clothed the world,” had seen its textile mills closed and a way of life altered. Unemployment was rampant. Now, with Facebook’s new facility, the county is a place “where the world connects.” It is also a place where Facebook and Isothermal Community College have formed a strong partnership, which is fueled by mutual support and shared purpose.
Shortly after the groundbreaking in 2010, 700 construction workers took control of the site, previously the home of a large textile mill that had been razed. It is a safe bet that many of these workers had previously worked in the former mill or another like it in the county. A large portion of the workers — welders, pipe fitters, construction workers and others — had been trained at Isothermal Community College.
As the facility has come online and continued to expand, the collaboration between Isothermal and Facebook has grown and deepened through the years, encompassing several initiatives that draw on the community’s strengths.
Facebook has found a lot to like in Forest City, N.C.
Cultivating a 21st Century Workforce
Mutually realizing the need for workers with unique and technical skills to be available to work in the data center, Facebook and Isothermal forged a partnership. Isothermal, which has always been known for its workforce training, created its Data Center Institute with the help of Facebook.
Isothermal instructors worked closely with Facebook employees to develop a certification that prepares students to work in one of the area’s most exciting industries. This 12-day workshop focuses on the technical knowledge required of an entry-level data center employee. It is a hands-on experience in an active learning environment. Content is delivered in modular format focusing on technical concepts. This is followed by a two-day simulation and a certification exam.
To facilitate instruction, Facebook generously donated a rack of servers along with power equipment to the college to simulate actual data center operations. This was particularly important since the equipment, which is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, could not be purchased on the open market — certainly not as a teaching aid for a community college. Quite simply, it gave Isothermal students the amazing opportunity to work closely with cutting-edge technology.
Walter Dalton (l.), president of Isothermal Community College, and Keven McCammon, site manager of Facebook’s data center in Forest City, discuss the server rack that was donated to Isothermal’s Data Center Institute by Facebook.
Since it was first launched, the program has graduated 68 students, nearly all of whom are now working in information technology. This institute earned Isothermal Community College the League of Innovation Award in 2012.
The results of the Isothermal Data Center Institute are impressive. Almost half of the students started work as interns at Facebook. Many obtained full-time jobs with the company through its HR service. Jobs that are touted in national and international media as among the most coveted in technology now belong to the citizens of our area. Several of the DCI graduates went to work for other data centers in the region and have credited the credentials earned at Isothermal as giving them an edge in the hiring process. In fact, a manager from a neighboring major data center took the class just to learn best practices and strategies.
Keven McCammon, site manager for Facebook’s Forest City Data Center, said, “Recruiting and training the highly skilled workers we need is one of the most difficult parts of running a data center. Isothermal’s Data Center Institute is producing homegrown, high-caliber talent, right here in Rutherford County.”
Building an Advanced Industrial Corridor
In 2014, Isothermal and Facebook worked with others to seek grant funding from the U.S. Department of Labor to create the Global Advanced Industrial Technology Consortium (GAITC), a regional consortium of two- and four-year colleges and universities in three states and globally recognized companies, working to enhance and improve advanced industrial technology training and research. It partners rural and urban areas, ignores political boundaries and embraces economic opportunities. It is intended to improve learning, stimulate innovation and save money through economies of scale.
Although not successful in the first attempt, the consortium will continue to seek funding from DOL and other sources. If that funding is received, an advanced industrial corridor will be created running from Spartanburg, S.C./Spindale, N.C. to Atlanta, Ga., with the aim of creating jobs through cutting-edge training and new product development and perfection. The GAITC partners include North Carolina State University, Spartanburg Community College, Chattahoochee Community College in Georgia, Tri-County Community College in North Carolina, and Western Carolina University, as well as other major companies.
Fostering Innovation in More Ways Than One
“Isothermal” literally means “equal temperature” — the name was given to the college because of Western North Carolina’s Thermal Belt. So it was logical for the college to have a weather station. Facebook made it happen, and with prestigious partners: NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) and the State Climate Office at North Carolina State University.
The station, located on Isothermal’s main campus in Spindale, provides real-time data for use by the scientific community and the public. A Facebook grant of $15,000 covered the major cost of equipment and installation. Most importantly, the data will be available for instruction in Isothermal’s science classes and will also be available for specific study projects by public school students.
The station is a part of the NC ECONET (North Carolina Environment and Climate Observing Network), which collects data from sensors across the state into a comprehensive database for analytical purposes. “These are research-grade sensors that provide data used by growers emergency managers, and the National Weather Service to improve forecasts,” said Ryan Boyles, director of the State Climate Office. “These sensors and the data they collect support decision-making, but are also available to help train the Isothermal community.”
Rutherford County Public Schools made it a priority to ensure that its students have access to technology, and provided each middle school and high school student with a free laptop computer. The problem was, however, that half of the students did not have Internet access at home.
“I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish together in the last three years, and know that our partnership has become a model for other data centers across the nation.” — Keven McCammon, site manager for Facebook’s Forest City Data Center
Together with Rutherford County Schools, Isothermal Community College, PANGAEA Internet, and the Town of Forest City, Facebook is working to provide free Wi-Fi to targeted neighborhoods. In Phase I of the project (launched in July 2014), students in 75 to 100 homes were given free Wi-Fi access. In addition to benefiting the local public schools, it will also benefit many Isothermal students who have faced the same access dilemma.
At Isothermal, we hope to build a culture focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), or, as Sam Houston of the Science and Math Technology Center in Raleigh would say, “Strategies That Engage the Mind.” Facebook has stepped up to the plate on both accounts by providing support (financial and otherwise) for Isothermal’s Science and Tech Expo, which is part of the North Carolina Science Festival. The expo brings all of the sixth-graders in a two-county area to the main campus of Isothermal for an entire day to experience nearly 50 interactive exhibits.
Lisa Hamrick, a graduate of Isothermal Community College’s Data Center Institute, is now employed at Facebook’s data center, working for contractor Milestone Technologies.
These are just a few of the initiatives that have grown out of the partnership between Facebook and Isothermal Community College. Facebook’s Keven McCammon said, “Isothermal Community College’s innovation and commitment to workforce and economic development were large factors in Facebook’s decision to locate its data center here. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish together in the last three years, and know that our partnership has become a model for other data centers across the nation.”
This year Isothermal celebrates its 50th Anniversary. It is 50 years of providing an affordable, accessible and excellent education, and workforce training to our citizens. In addition, we celebrate and appreciate our partnership with Facebook, a relatively new — but powerful and caring — corporate citizen. In only a short time, Facebook has had a significant impact on our local culture and our local economy. While it has a global presence, it is having a tremendous local impact.
The Isothermal/Facebook partnership already has paid great dividends, and will continue to grow and thrive through a shared vision for a better future. At Isothermal and in our area, it is safe to say that we “like” Facebook.
Walter Dalton is the president of Isothermal
Community College and was the 33rd Lieutenant
Governor of North Carolina.
Letter to the Editor, submitted by Ron Walters, Executive Director of PANGAEA Internet
Published in the Tryon Daily Bulletin, Wednesday, December 10, 2014
To the editor:
I am writing to correct the Wi-Fi story that appeared on the Tryon Daily Bulletin front page on Nov. 26, 2014.
At the May 20, 2014 Tryon Town Council meeting, PANGAEA presented a proposal to install signage indicating free Wi-Fi availability and to designate five parking spaces on McCown Street as Wi-Fi hot spot parking. The motion was approved unanimously “to allow PANGAEA to use five parking spaces on McCown Street designated as PANGAEA Wi-Fi Hot Spot and signage subject to Town approval” (May 20, 2014 meeting minutes).
That being said, PANGAEA is a long time community partner and we will gladly work with the town to address any concerns about the Wi-Fi signage. We are very excited about the number of people using the Wi-Fi parking spaces and the Tryon free Wi-Fi system since the signs went up.
There are three purposes of the free Wi-Fi signs: 1) informational (indicating the availability of free Wi-Fi), 2) safety (indicating a safe place to park to access the internet), and 3) support (indicating to contact PANGAEA with comments or service issues). The signs are not intended to be advertising for PANGAEA Internet.
As background, PANGAEA Internet is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit company that has raised and spent nearly $4 million building a high-speed fiber optic Internet system in Polk and Rutherford Counties. Many community leaders are serving or have served on our board of directors. Our mission is to enhance the quality of life and economic development of our area by providing extremely reliable and fast internet service for education, government, health care and commercial businesses.
Every Tryon downtown development strategic discussion that I’ve heard has included the need for increased internet access. In 2014, we started a project to utilize our fiber network to provide free Wi-Fi in downtown areas. The goal was to provide free Wi-Fi access to visitors (bring people downtown and keep them here) as well as provide a safe place for people to park and access the internet for texting, maps, web searches etc.
Therefore, in early 2014 PANGAEA deployed 12 access points throughout the Tryon downtown area and we are providing free Wi-Fi. In fact, the free Wi-Fi bandwidth was recently tripled to 3 MB download and 1 MB upload. As the project is part of our community based mission, PANGAEA paid for 100 percent of the signs and sign installation as well as the Wi-Fi equipment and bandwidth/transport.
We welcome comments or suggestions on how we can continue to utilize our network to improve Tryon.
Internet access has become a little easier and more convenient for the business traveler, tourist or Polk County resident visiting Tryon. In October, PANGAEA Internet, a non-profit Internet service provider based in Tryon, launched free Wi-Fi access points throughout downtown Tryon, marked by newly-installed signs at parking spaces along McCown St., by Side Street Pizza and at Tryon Town Hall.
The free outside service offers three MB download speed and one MB upload speed, a tripling of bandwidth from what was previously available. Twelve antennae throughout Tryon provide the hotspots, or access points. Mobile devices, such as phones, tablets and personal computers with Wi-Fi capability can access the service.
“Part of our mission is to focus on improving Internet availability and enhancing the economic development potential of this area. Providing community Wi-Fi is our most recent project,” said Ron Walters, PANGAEA’s executive director.
Walters also noted that the company is also conducting a limited trial in Saluda with an antenna on the roof of the library that the public can use to access the Internet.
The company installed signs at parking spaces in Tryon, according to Walters, because this gives the business visitor or tourist a safe place to access maps or email within sight of the antenna.
“This is a real asset for visitors and tourists,” said Walters.
When visitors connect to the free service for the first time, a “splash page” will appear. If visitors wish to purchase higher speed service, they will be directed to use a credit card or PayPal to complete that transaction.
Now in its 11th year, PANGAEA Internet offers high-speed fiber optic Internet service to more than 140 locations in Polk and Rutherford Counties. Its customers include businesses, healthcare, education, and government agencies. PANGAEA also sells wholesale Internet to residential Internet service providers.
Walters said that the company hopes the community will provide feedback about their experiences with these access points.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (Contact Ron Walters at 828-859-3072 or firstname.lastname@example.org)
Town of Forest City, Rutherford County Schools, PANGAEA Internet, and Facebook Launch Pilot of Free Wi-Fi Program for Local Students
TRYON, NC (July 17, 2014) The Town of Forest City, Rutherford County Schools, PANGAEA Internet, and Facebook Inc. announced today that they are launching a pilot program intended to deliver free Wi-Fi access to students who live in the Rutherford County School District. The first phase of the pilot will launch immediately, testing solutions for delivering free Wi-Fi to 75-100 homes in the neighborhood surrounding the Rutherford Opportunity Center in Forest City.
The Forest City neighborhood was selected with the assistance of Rutherford County Schools, in part because of its high concentration of students. In 2011, the school system introduced a 1:1 initiative to provide a personal laptop to every middle and high school student. Administration officials have found, however, that nearly half of the 6,000 students who have received a laptop do not have Internet access at home. The new Wi-Fi network is intended to enable these students to take full advantage of the 1:1 program, using the Internet both at school and at home.
The first-phase Wi-Fi network is now live and can be accessed by joining the “Connect” network in the covered area. During the first phase, the Town of Forest City is providing space and power for the Wi-Fi end points, Facebook is providing the Wi-Fi end points themselves, and PANGAEA is providing the network signal. Future phases of the pilot will focus on expanding access to more students in the Rutherford County School District and on improving the performance of the network.
“It’s heartwarming to see a local business, the non-profit community, the school system, and the town come together to provide such an important service to our students and help them develop the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century,” said Forest City Mayor Dennis Tarlton. “This joint initiative is the perfect example of what makes Forest City such an exceptional place to live and work. This is a great opportunity for the citizens of Forest City.
“One of the pillars of the 1:1 initiative is to ensure equal access to digital information for all students,” said Dr. Janet Mason, superintendent of Rutherford County Schools. “We are thrilled to have partners like Facebook, PANGAEA Internet, and the Town of Forest City who share this vision and are enabling us to take another step toward delivering on our promise. When you can utilize technology to enhance educational opportunities for our county’s young people, everybody wins.
“PANGAEA Internet’s nonprofit mission is focused on improving our community, and as Rutherford County’s premier fiber optic internet service provider, we understand the impact that wireless access can have on businesses and families alike,” said Ron Walters, executive director of PANGAEA Internet. “We are delighted to be a partner in this joint initiative to invest in our region’s students by extending access to their homes.
“Connectivity can open up new opportunities for everyone, and we’re excited to partner with Forest City, the Rutherford County School District, and PANGAEA Internet to help bring that access to more of Forest City’s students,” said Keven McCammon, site manager for Facebook’s data center in Forest City. “Facebook has called Forest City home for more than three years now, and we are proud to be able to help the community continue to invest in its future.”
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