Having fiber-optic cable will mean companies and private contractors in WNC can send packets of data to clients worldwide as fast and as affordably as their counterparts in densely wired urban areas like Charlotte and the Research Triangle, project manager Sherry McCuller said Thursday.Appalachian Access
is an initiative by more than 100 businesses, schools and governments and others in 23 counties to get fiber-optic service far faster and accommodating than access to the Internet that most businesses here currently have.
It hopes to convince a vendor that there's enough of a need by businesses and schools already and that there would be even more if fiber optic were available.McCuller
comments to the Rural Internet Access Authority at Southwestern Community College Thursday.The college is spearheading the Appalachian Access effort, and the authority backs it.
WNC businesses for years have been frustrated by the expense of transmitting data over the existing phone lines.
It's so expensive because the nearest on-ramp to the fiber-optic "superhighway" is in Charlotte
, Knoxville, Tenn., and Greenville, S.C. Companies in WNC pay toll charges there and back.
...McCuller is managing director of The Institute at Mars Hill College, which is doing the research for Appalachian Access.She
said 11 companies are interested in providing the fiber-optic cable to the area needs.
A "formal indication of intention" to be the cable entity is like an engagement to be married, McCuller
explained.A contract comes next, after program administrators select whichever company best suits the areas needs, she
and other project participants have identified $12 million worth of business in WNC that need fiber-optic cable.That alone is all administrators need to get a better price for high-speed access, McCuller
There are 109 companies in and around Buncombe County that could use the high-speed lines, McCuller
told the board, declining to name any of them.She
said there are 14 in Cherokee County, eight in Clay County and 32 on the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian Reservation and in Jackson, Swain, Macon and Haywood counties.
There are also 19 hospitals and health care organizations that need higher speed access, McCuller
said, so that doctors and hospitals in Waynesville and Sylva, for example, can send X-rays instantaneously and clearly to radiologists at Mission St. Joseph's Health System of interpretation.