In January 2020, MCNC, the non-profit operator of the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN)and Facebook announced a collaboration to make high-speed broadband available in the western region of the state. Facebook is constructing a new, high-capacity fiber route from Forest City in Rutherford County to Dobson in Surry County that will be completed later this year. The partnership will connect nearly 30 Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs) across Rutherford, Burke, Caldwell, Wilkes, and Surry counties.
The CAIs will have significantly higher broadband speeds due to direct fiber connections to the internet. Institutions initially to be connected include four school districts (Burke, Elkin, Rutherford and Wilkes County Schools), four community colleges, three charter schools, the N.C. School for the Deaf, and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics western campus (to open in 2021). In addition, five health care sites, five agricultural extension offices, and four public safety locations will also be connected.
Residents in the area can also expect access to high speed internet, allowing students help with homework, new opportunities for small businesses, and improved access to telemedicine.