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e-Polk signs contract to expand fiber optic network

September 19, 2006 – the Tryon Daily Bulletin –

e-Polk Inc., the three-year-old non-profit operating 10 miles of fiber optic network in Polk County, has contracted with Northland Communications Corp. to build an additional 34 miles of fiber line.

Advantage West-North Carolina, the Western North Carolina Regional Economic Development Commission, awarded e-Polk Inc. $417,000 last July. The grant calls for e-Polk to build at least 72 strands of fiber optic cable from Mill Spring to Rutherfordton in order to supply high-speed, low-cost bandwidth to the new Foothills Connect Business & Technology Center in downtown Rutherfordton.

Since the grant award was announced, e-Polk Inc. board members and project managers Keven McCammon and Jeff Byrd have been working to design and achieve full funding for the best route to Rutherfordton. The route chosen will run from Lake Lure south on Hwy. 9, past Sunny View Elementary and Polk Central School, to Sandy Plains Road following Sandy Plains east to Hwy. 221 and following that north to downtown Rutherfordton.

The longer route, serving more of Polk County and Rutherford County than a straight shot down Hwy. 108, was made possible with contributions from Northland Communications Corp. as well as Polk County Schools, Rutherford County Government and Foothills Connect, in addition to the grant funding. Northland Communications Corp. is the cable television franchisee for eastern Polk County and Rutherford County.

The project includes an extension of the Polk County government network. The Polk County Board of Commissioners voted this year to exercise the county’s option with e-Polk Inc., paying the incremental cost to add another 12 strands of fiber to that portion of the new build within Polk County borders.

In addition to supporting the project with a contribution, Rutherford County Government is also paying to extend the fiber build from Foothills Connect to its county annex in downtown Rutherfordton. Polk County Schools plans to connect both Sunny View and Polk Central schools to its existing school network.

The total cost of the project is $603,500. Northland Communications Corp. officers said they hope to complete the construction by the end of the year.

“We are very pleased that we found a way to get the most fiber connectivity possible in these two counties with the grant money available,” said McCammon. “With the help of these partners we were able to move from a 14-mile route to a 34-mile route, bringing the fiber to many more locations.”

e-Polk Inc. was formed in 2003 with a $375,000 grant from the Rural Internet Access Authority, now the e-NC Authority. e-Polk completed the original network, which is doing business as PANGAEA Internet, in July 2003. At that time, e-Polk hung 144 strands of fiber on the power poles running from the railroad tracks at Sidestreet Pizza in Tryon to Polk County High School. Additional help was received in the form of a $22,750 grant from the Polk County Community Foundation.

In 2005, the PANGAEA network was extended again 2.5 miles to the Polk County Middle School campus with $70,000 funding from Polk County. At that time, Polk County also purchased the rights to use 12 strands along the entire existing network for a government network and the right to place 12 strands in any new construction.

While extending PAN-GAEA to Mill Spring, the management of Cooper-Riis decided to pay for the fiber to be run an additional mile to the Cooper-Riis Healing Farm Road campus east of Hwy. 9 on Hwy. 108.

e-Polk’s PANGAEA network today serves the Town of Tryon, Polk County Government, Polk County Schools, Isothermal Community College, the Polk County Public Library, the Polk County Health Department two Internet Service Providers and ten area businesses.