published: March 22, 2005 6:00 am
ENKA — A multimillion-dollar high-speed broadband web may soon network hospitals, colleges, schools and businesses across 30 Western North Carolina counties.
U.S. Rep. Charles Taylor announced Monday a new, $10 million plan to expand the reach of broadband service from Cherokee County to Interstate 77, the road that stretches from Mecklenburg County to the Virginia border.
“If we’re ever going to grow in the Carolinas, the west has to bind together,” Taylor said. He made the announcement at the WNC Communities Regional Assembly, a gathering of community, industry and governmental leaders at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.
Broadband can be a lifeline for firms relying on the Internet to do businesses, said Paul Combs, director of the Appalachian Regional Development Institute at Appalachian State University.
“Having broadband available for economic development now is just as important as having roads or any other infrastructure,” he said.
• The Library of Congress will fund the project, according to Kelly Vreeland, chief operating officer of the Education and Research Consortium, a nonprofit organization Taylor helped to organize in 1997.
• The ERC also supports startup and expanding businesses by developing venture capital. In addition, the group develops educational programs promoting technology and science education.
• The consortium should decide when to begin the project within the next several weeks.
• When completed, the network will be a high-speed information highway — just the thing, Taylor said, to help promote high paying, high-tech jobs in research and engineering in businesses such as hospitals.
• ERC already has invested $30 million to create the existing network, which links digital hubs from Asheville, Waynesville and Cullowhee, to South Carolina cities including Greenville and Spartanburg, Taylor said.
Contact Newsome at 232-5856 or
On the Net: www.ercwc.org.