|Aug 07, 2012 --
Southeastern Columbus county residents in North Carolina were without access to high speed internet. People in these rural areas couldn’t even check their e-mail on the slow connection speeds that were previously available.
How Rural Development Helped:
The Atlantic Telephone Membership Corporation (ATMC) received a Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) loan and a BIP grant in 2010. The loan was for approximately $4.8 million and the grant for $11.2 million, totaling just over $16 million. A 260 mile fiber optic cable network is being laid so that everyone in the service area who wants it can have access to high speed broadband service.
ATMC has also received several Telecommunications Infrastructure Loans over the years, the most recent one being in 2006 for $10.1 million. In fact, ATMC was founded in 1955 with the help of a loan from the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), the predecessor to Rural Utilities Services (RUS) and the Telecommunications Program. ATMC is now the largest telephone cooperative in North Carolina and serves more than 38,000 members, many of whom have been helped through these loans and grants.
Using funds from their most recent Infrastructure loan, ATMC was able to build out their cellular sites so that they now offer cell phone service to their customers.
Funds from the BIP loan and grant were used to create a network for 3,600 households in southeastern Columbus County as well as 270 small businesses in the area. ATMC has been able to construct a fiber network to serve this rural area of North Carolina and they have completed the build out over a year ahead of schedule. Towns in this area are already beginning to see the benefits of a high-speed fiber connection. For example, several members of the community of Pleasant Plains in Columbus County are enrolled in online courses which were made slow and cumbersome by the old dial-up connection. The new broadband service has made the classes faster and more manageable so that online learning and telecommuting, which previously seemed impossible, are now achievable realities.
Allen Russ, the CEO of ATMC said “We know school teachers, principals and medical administrators in this area who do not have access to broadband and that is crucial to their jobs.” In fact, the Vice President of Plant Operations for ATMC is married to a local school teacher and she was never able to access even her e-mail on their home internet due to the lack of broadband. She was unable to enter grades at home due to the slowness of their dial-up connection, so she would often have to stay late at school to complete these tasks that she is now able to do at home. Now that the network is complete local businesses and their workers will be able to operate more efficiently.
ATMC’s first customers under the BIP network in Columbus County, Mr. and Mrs. Carl Ward, were hooked up in September 2011. Mrs. Ward said that previously they had to wait on some things online for as long as 45 minutes, and now “it’s so fast that if you blink you’ll miss it.”
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