The Fastest Broadband in the West: How Yancey County Got a Gig

Partnering with Country Cablevision, Yancey County used a federal grant to build a broadband network to every home and gain economic benefits.

Yancey County, located in northwestern N.C., has a population of almost 18,000 residents, hosts three large industrial manufacturers and supports tourism around Mount Mitchell. However, most tourists and residents could not consistently access broadband in the county due to poor availability. The county found that 64% of people surveyed were unable to receive service, and only 10.5% were able to stream videos.

The county formed a public-private partnership with Country Cablevision, a local provider, applied for, and secured a federal grant from USDA’s Rural Utilities Service. The grant funded a $25.3 million fiber-to-the-home broadband project in Yancey and neighboring Mitchell County.

Now completed, the network can deliver service at speeds from 25 mbps to 1 gigabit upload and download to every household in the county. The economic and social benefits the county is now experiencing are staggering. As a result of deployment, the county is attracting telecommuters and “lifestyle entrepreneurs” who relocate to the area because they prefer to live in the natural beauty of the western N.C. mountains. In addition, the county’s three large industrial manufacturers have improved productivity and efficiency and increased employment. Finally, the local community college, Mayland Community College, opened the Anspach Advanced Manufacturing School, which utilizes the new connectivity to operate an advanced prototype operation, in addition to teaching advanced mechatronics and robotics techniques.