SUNBRIGHT, Tenn. — Highland Telephone Cooperative was certified today as a Gig-Capable Provider by NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association. Highland earned this award after more than six years of work to replace its copper network with an all-new fiber optic network. Because of the new system, the cooperative is able to deliver world-class gigabit broadband speeds to the people of Morgan and Scott counties in Tennessee and McCreary County, Kentucky.

The gigabit speeds are 100 times faster than the top speed many Americans can receive in their homes.

“This gigabit certification caps off years of careful planning, investing and building a brand-new fiber network for our area,” said CEO Mark Patterson. “All along, we knew our commitment was worth the effort so our friends and families in this area could keep their rural lifestyle without sacrificing world-class connectivity.”

To build the fiber network capable of bringing gigabit speeds to the region, Highland crews and contractors ran more than 2,700 miles of fiber — enough to stretch from the cooperative office in Sunbright, Tennessee, to Vancouver, British Columbia. The $66 million investment is already improving the region’s quality of life, health care options, educational opportunities and economic outlook.

“Our area lacks interstates and many economic advantages that other communities enjoy, and we’ve suffered through some extremely high unemployment in recent years,” Patterson says. “An asset like a gigabit-capable network can be our competitive edge when it comes to bringing in industry and growing existing businesses.”

While gigabit speeds are a major tool for economic development, the speeds will also add convenience to the daily lives of those in Highland’s service area. For example, Highland members with a 1 Gbps internet connection can download a two-hour, high-definition movie in as little as 25 seconds. Downloading that same movie on a 10 Mbps connection would take about 55 minutes.

NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield lauded HTC for its commitment to innovation and service.

“I applaud Highland for its commitment to delivering the internet’s fastest speeds — an accomplishment worthy of much praise considering the challenging circumstances small, community-based telecommunications providers operate under in serving some of our country’s most rural and remote communities,” Bloomfield said. “By building a gigabit-capable network, Highland has not only overcome these challenges, but also shattered conventional benchmarks for broadband speed to enable cutting-edge technologies that drive innovation and promote economic development in their communities, region and nationwide.”

More information about the NTCA Gig-Capable Provider certification program is available at www.ntca.org/gigcertified.