Rural areas are plagued by a lack of high-speed Internet, forced to deal with slow dial-up connections, thwarting the ability of entrepreneurs and business people to work from their homes. DSL, a form of high-speed Internet offered over phone lines, and cable are the two leading forms of high-speed Internet access. But homes in most rural areas are too few and far between to justify the expense of installing DSL switches or running cable lines.
But Verizon has realized the percentage of homes in rural areas that sign up for the service once installed is very high, high enough to justify the expense of installing DSL switches in more remote areas.
“The interesting things about rural areas is the take rates are very high,” said Stan Pace, a director with Verizon.
Several of the rural communities that have gotten DSL switches installed in their area are home to wealthier subdivisions where the take rate would likely be even higher, such as Balsam Mountain Preserve in Jackson County and development along Santeetlah Lake in Graham County.
Rep. Phil Haire, D-Sylva, said the addition of DSL high-speed access in some rural areas will benefit the economy. People who run businesses out of their homes and wanted to move to Western North Carolina were limited by the availability of high-speed Internet.
In order to get DSL, homes must be within 3 miles of a DSL switch for the high-speed Internet connection to be transmitted properly. Verizon has added numerous of these DSL switches along their lines, making high-speed Internet possible in places it wasn’t before.
In 2003 and 2004, over 57 percent of the increase in Verizon’s DSL-capable lines was in rural areas — many in communities with as few as 50 phone lines per square mile.
“That area of the state is pretty rugged. It is not always the return on the investment but simply how much the investment is because the terrain is more rugged,” said Bob Elek, a spokesperson for Verizon Communications.
Verizon spent nearly $1 million adding the DSL switches in their service area, which includes Jackson, Macon, Swain, Clay, Graham, Cherokee, Madison, Mitchell, Yancey and McDowell counties.
Some of the communities in this area are Speedwell, Balsam Preserve, Caney Fork, WCU area, Walnut Creek, Tilley Creek, Goose Creek, Holly Springs, Eagle Ridge, Tessentee, Caney, Chapel, Clark’s, Rose Creek, Ellijay, Santeetlah, Laurel Oaks and Wilmont.