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Pilot Program Launched to Provide Free WiFi to Local Students

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (Contact Ron Walters at 828-859-3072 or ronw@e-polk.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.”

About PANGAEA Internet
PANGAEA Internet is a non-profit provider of high-speed fiber optic Internet service. Its network currently serves customers at over 140 locations across Polk and Rutherford Counties, including public school districts, city and county governments, health care facilities, and local businesses. Learn more: www.pangaea.us

About Forest City, NC
Forest City was incorporated as Burnt Chimney in 1877, and the name was changed to Forest City in 1887. The population of Forest City is 7,450 and it is the commercial hub of Rutherford County. Forest City is situated in the foothills of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. Learn more: www.townofforestcity.com

About Rutherford County Schools
Rutherford County Schools serves approximately 9,000 students through five high schools, three middle schools, and ten elementary schools. The system also has pre-school programs, a middle grade alternative program, a high school alternative program, and an early college program. Its mission is to prepare all students for lifelong learning in a global community by partnering with families and communities, providing rigorous academic and career preparation experiences, and promoting a safe and nurturing school environment. Learn more: www.rcsnc.org

About Facebook
Founded in 2004, Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them. Learn more: www.facebook.com/ForestCityDataCenter