These days, the most popular website in Warren County’s Boyce community might be fiberforwarren.com – at least among those who can actually access it, that is.
The website gives those rural county residents an opportunity to register their interest in the broadband internet service that the partnering Warren Rural Electric Cooperative Corp. and North Central Telephone Cooperative are bringing to their homes and businesses.
NCTC and WRECC announced in October the partnership that will bring high-speed internet service to about 800 addresses in the Boyce community in the southeastern portion of the county, an area not served by Spectrum Cable or any other high-speed internet provider.
A follow-up meeting Dec. 3 at Martha’s Chapel General Baptist Church showed just how hungry the residents are for a service that will allow them to do their online shopping and social media surfing without a wait that rivals a visit to a Scottsville Road restaurant on a Saturday night.
The meeting drew 138 people, according to Warren County 6th District Magistrate Ron Cummings, who was there along with Sheriff Brett Hightower as part of one of the sheriff’s “meet and greet” sessions.
“The focus of the meeting was the rollout of high-speed internet service,” Cummings said. “Fifty percent of the people in that area have already signed up online. They (NCTC and WRECC) were very happy with that number.”
“It was a great response,” said Kim Phelps, senior director of communications and public relations for WRECC. “We’re happy that so many people came out and asked great questions.”
NCTC had answers, including a breakdown of the different services it will provide.
The Lafayette, Tenn.-based company will offer four levels of internet service, ranging from a 100-megabit-per-second service for $64.95 per month to a one-gigabit service that will cost $94.95.
NCTC President and CEO Johnny McClanahan said in October that his company should begin providing service in Boyce by the first quarter of 2020.
The partnership involves WRECC providing the fiber backbone and lateral lines that NCTC will then use to bring internet service to homes.
That rollout can’t come too soon for Boyce residents such as Connie McNeil, who said at the October announcement: “This is the best news we’ve received in this area in a long time.”
McClanahan said in October that he would like to have 60 percent of Boyce residents sign up for the service. Such a “take rate” might be enough for NCTC to expand its service to other underserved parts of Warren County.
The online signups are approaching that figure already, and Cummings said that is encouraging for Boyce residents and the county as a whole.
“This is truly a game-changer,” said Cummings, a longtime Realtor. “It brings that part of Warren County into the 21st century. Reliable, affordable high-speed internet is one of the top three services people look for when buying a home, along with water and electricity.
“High-speed internet has changed from something that was nice to have to a necessary service.”
Cummings said the response of the Boyce residents could bode well for the rest of the county.
“This area was chosen because it’s a high-speed internet desert,” Cummings said. “It puts pressure on the people in this pilot program because its success will determine if it will be rolled out to more customers.”
The Boyce project follows closely the announcement that WRECC would be partnering with the Franklin Electric Plant Board to bring broadband service to more than 300 Simpson County homes.
Like Cummings, WRECC’s Phelps believes good participation in Boyce could lead to more broadband rollouts.
“We know our members want and need high-speed internet, and we are delighted to be able to offer the NCTC and Franklin pilots to test our assumptions,” Phelps said in an email. “We sincerely hope that the response rates continue to be high so that we can consider expanding.”