Since the early 2015 completion of the utility’s initial fiber-optic buildout to 1,200 homes and businesses in and around downtown Erwin, access to Erwin Fiber’s ultrafast, one-gigabyte broadband service was extended to a total of 4,700 residential and business customers in Erwin and communities along the town’s Highway 107 to corridor to southern Washington County.
Phase two of the buildout was completed in March 2016 and included 1,300 homes and businesses.
The November completion of phase-three construction grew the service by another 2,200 homes and businesses and increased Erwin Fiber’s total reach to approximately half of its parent company, Erwin Utilities’ electric service customers.
And with a $400,000 ARC grant awarded to the utility in December, construction of another 35-mile expansion to the mountain communities of Temple Hill and Bumpass Cove is expected to begin this spring and to be completed before the end of the year.
Erwin Utilities General Manager Lee Brown said the new expansion will bring high-speed internet access to 680 homes and 30 businesses in two underserved rural communities where the prospects for the service were otherwise very low.
In today’s increasingly technology-driven society, Brown said internet service has become “as important as electricity and water.”
“Connection to the internet is an essential. We have to have it,” Brown said.
Tyler Engle, executive director of the Joint Economic Development Board of Unicoi County, sees Erwin Fiber’s provision of internet service as fast as any in the nation as a great selling point for the rural community dominated by mountains and national forest.
“It’s one gigabyte, right here in Erwin. And if anyone needs that, a Google or an Apple, we have it and we have a wonderful place for it too,” Engle said.
Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.