In 2010, Scott County, Tennessee languished at a twenty-one percent unemployment rate, not unusual for rural areas. By early 2015, that rate had halved. Through fiber optic power, Highland Telephone Cooperative’s vision, and funding from USDA Rural Development, these rural counties have become robust community models of technological enfranchisement.
Five years ago in the communities dotting the Upper Cumberland Plateau, lack of broadband access was a barrier to services that residents and businesses in urban areas take for granted. Geographical challenges such as the region’s remote and rocky terrain, combined with the lack of subscribers to provide business income, are common reasons rural areas do not enjoy affordable and reliable high-speed internet service.