Ferrum News

Ferrum College Students and Faculty Help Bring High-Speed Internet to Franklin County Residents and Businesses


 Ferrum College students and faculty are utilizing their academic resources to help provide rural Franklin County residents and businesses with high-speed Internet through a project called the “Last Mile Broadband.” The project was initiated by the Community Development Alliance (CDA), a partnership between Franklin County and Ferrum College initiated through the Appalachian College Community Economic Development Alliance (ACCEDP). Through this program, the availability of wireless technologies will expand across the county - ultimately providing both businesses and residents additional opportunities for advancement and growth.

Using a model developed and pioneered by University of North Carolina’s Office of Business and Economic Development Office, the college is devoting selected resources from across its academic curriculum to assist the county in this project. According to the project’s coordinator and Associate Professor of Library Science at Ferrum College, George Loveland, the project has allowed the college to “take what we do best, research and teaching, and give our gift to the community.”

For the past two years, the project has allowed students to get essential hands-on experience within their chosen field. Since the project expands across several multi-disciplinary areas, students have been able to become involved in the areas of GIS mapping, public relations, Spanish translation, the performing arts, and political geography. “We have harnessed resources from all aspects of the college and used them with community partners for economic development,” said Loveland.

Economic improvement with the enhancement of community relations is the project’s key goal, according to Franklin County’s Director of Information Technology, Sandie Terry. “Our goal is to work hand-in-hand with the community to identify the needs of our citizens, and be able to effectively meet those needs,” she explains. Through the project. additional residents will have an option for broadband Internet access.

Wireless availability is the most cost effective way to provide this much needed utility. Though wireless Internet access has been provided to over 150 business and over 1200 residents in the county, beginning in the summer of 2009 further development will be made to ensure that wireless access is available to even more residents.

According to Provost, and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Leslie Lambert, “The Last Mile Broadband project brings together the best of undergraduate learning components -- energized faculty and community experts working side by side with engaged students to apply multidisciplinary knowledge to address a community identified need.” The project will continue to offer opportunities for student involvement in the fall. Dr. Frederic Torimiro, Dean of the School of Social Sciences at Ferrum College, has developed a course for the fall semester which will allow his students to interview members of the community who have been affected by the project. The course will offer insights into the impact such new and emerging technology has on members of the community and compare it to older technologies such as electricity, indoor plumbing, etc.

The project is gaining local, state, and national attention. Many other areas are looking at the
project in Franklin County as a model for broadband deployment in rural areas.

For more information on this project, contact George Loveland at (540) 365-4427 or gloveland@ferrum.edu.

Ferrum College is a four-year, private, co-educational, liberal arts college affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Ferrum offers a choice of nationally recognized bachelor's degree programs at a cost well below the national average for private colleges. For more information on Ferrum, visit www.ferrum.edu