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Co-ops Provide Fiber Expansion Update in Eastern Watauga County

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Last Updated on October 18, 2022 10:19 am

Officials from Blue Ridge Energy and SkyLine Membership Corporation/SkyBest Communications, Inc. met with members of the Watauga County Commission on October 6 to provide the latest update on fiber construction activity in eastern Watauga County, where crews from both companies have been constructing both aerial and buried fiber that will bring gigabit-capable broadband connectivity to residents and businesses.

Company leaders, county commissioners and project staff for both companies pose for a joint photo at one of the construction sites on Foggy Ridge Road near Ben Miller Road in the Deep Gap area. This location and the overlooking area below will receive fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) services via one of the new remote facilities to be constructed on Wildcat Road as part of the fiber expansion project. Pictured left to right: Blue Ridge Energy Senior Communications/Fiber Optic Analyst Scott Eggers, Fiber Optic/Telecommunications Team Leader Thomas Russell and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Doug Johnson, Watauga County Commission members Charlie Wallin, Billy Kennedy and Larry Turnbow; and SkyLine Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kim Shepherd, Chief Technology Officer Robbie Farmer, Plant Manager Brant Davis and Staking Engineer Eugene Seatz.

The two companies have completed 75 miles of construction across Phase 1, 2,3 and 4 to areas of Elk Creek/Powderhorn, Stony Fork/Wildcat, Blackberry/Sampson and Howard’s Creek/Ray Brown), and as part of Phase 1 of the project, there are currently 62 active fiber customers now connected to broadband services through SkyBest Communications. With $7.5 million in funding awarded from the Watauga County Board of Commissioners, a total of 150 miles of overhead and underground fiber will be constructed by Blue Ridge Energy and SkyLine/SkyBest over the next two and a half years to serve more than 1,700 unserved or underserved locations.

Meeting in early September with Watauga County Commission members Charlie Wallin, Billy Kennedy and Larry Turnbow, SkyBest Chief Technology Officer Robbie Farmer references a staking map of east Watauga where both SkyLine/SkyBest and Blue Ridge Energy are constructing aerial and buried fiber that ultimately deliver symmetrical broadband internet services to residents and businesses.

Despite supply chain issue delays for some equipment items, the companies report steady progress as splicing is making good headway, and remote site acquisition, site work and placement activity is going well for all locations. Residents in the project area are encouraged to submit their address online at www.fiber.skybest.com to be contacted by SkyBest when broadband service is available at their location.

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