Rural Spectrum Expansion Brings Broadband to Pleasant Hill, Tennessee
Spectrum’s commitment to rural expansion has touched a small town in Tennessee. Connectivity is made possible through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund and is changing lives.
The city of Pleasant Hill is a rural community in Tennessee located between Knoxville to the east and Nashville to the west. Heading west on Interstate 70 from nearby Crossville, the bustle of city traffic quickly fades away. It’s easy to miss the turn onto East Main Street, the main road through Pleasant Hill, population 540.
Both sides of the two-lane road are mostly farmland with crop fields rising to touch the horizon, juxtaposed with the occasional house, livestock, tractor, pond or barn. But there’s something new on the scene — 28 miles of newly created Spectrum Gigabit broadband, part of the company’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund expansion and nearly $5 billion of RDOF-related investment in unserved rural communities. Residents say it has provided a new educational and business opportunity, and in one case a lifeline for accurate weather data.
“Our dedicated construction team, engineers and technicians have worked hard to bring 28 miles of fiber to life,” said Charlie Agius, regional vice president for Spectrum. “Spectrum’s investment in broadband is changing the lives of rural areas like Pleasant Hill, not only for their economy, healthcare and education, but for community safety and peace of mind.”
Students and city dwellers are safer thanks to connectivity
In 2021, students at a K-8 school were riding school buses to class when a tornado hit the city; An EF-0 struck the area with 85 mph winds and cut a path of destruction about 6 miles long before weakening and dissipating.
“The school awning was torn down without warning,” Pleasant Hill Mayor Don Dowdy said. Although only minor injuries were reported, the hurricane left the community hypervigilant for the appearance of storm clouds, and a renewed focus on high-speed broadband — because for years, gaps in weather radar didn’t allow for early warnings of severe weather. People take extra time to get to a safe place.
A company called Climavision had the ability to fill those radar gaps and provide that information to emergency management entities, governments, and media organizations with weather forecasts — but the company needed a fiber connection and was looking for a provider in Pleasant Hill. Josh Palmer, chief executive officer of Spectrum Business, knew Climavision’s needs and facilitated communication with the construction and field operations teams. The Climavision radar is now located atop the water tower on Pleasant Hill.
“Spectrum rural broadband enables us to move massive amounts of data from our radar to our back-end infrastructure to provide an important service to the community,” said Chris Judd, co-founder and CEO of Climavision. “Without high-speed Spectrum connectivity, we could not have installed our radar and shut down the low-level data void in the area. With the necessary connectivity, we were able to instantly operationalize the data and ultimately put life-saving tools in the hands of public safety officials to make more informed decisions.”
A broadband expansion project is taking shape
In late fall 2021, Spectrum crews walked miles across Pleasant Hill counting unserved locations. By walking through the rural community, teams could assess the geography and tackle any difficult terrain, which ultimately helped engineers design the best possible route for the network. After obtaining the appropriate permits, construction began.
Mile after mile, fiber was laid throughout the Pleasant Hill community and in November of 2022, the light of gigabit broadband filled the network, helping to connect the community.
Mayor Dowdy admits it’s been exciting to see the wave of Spectrum trucks on the roads and crews installing lines in anticipation of getting the new service with speeds starting at 300 Mbps. “City Hall was one of the first places to switch,” Dowdy said. “This has definitely made it easier for us to do everything from maintaining our Facebook page and website to doing online banking. We can participate in Zoom conferences everywhere.
Connecting to the spectrum has saved the city money. With a strong Internet connection, maintenance crews in Pleasant Hill were able to compare and purchase equipment. In addition, spectrum connectivity has fostered new economic opportunities for local businesses.
High-speed broadband at Linda’s Café enhances connectivity
In the city centre, visitors can find Café Linda. A staple in Pleasant Hill for 42 years, manager Sandy Wilson has worked in the family-run business most of her life, overseeing the operation for her mother, the restaurant’s namesake.
It had previously had to rely on cellular Internet service — and welcomed the connectivity Spectrum provides to its customers who pay with credit cards. “It’s definitely a higher speed than what we have; “We can count on him,” Wilson said. “With Spectrum you just swipe it and you’re good to go.”
She can now focus more time on posting her daily specials on her social media platforms and visiting local diners.
Milk delivery the new old way
Tim Mast has been milking cows for more than 35 years. In 2016, he purchased a farm in Pleasant Hill and started Sunrise Dairy.
He began bottling milk, making ice cream and specialty dairy products on the family-run farm, selling them to area stores and residents just like the milkman of days gone by. As his dairy operations expanded, his need for technology and connectivity increased. Slow speeds caused delays in his employees’ ability to deliver milk to area residents and receive payments.
“We started with cellular internet, and as everyone came, it went south and got very slow,” Mast said. It’s getting frustrating. I can’t do my writing using QuickBooks anymore. Mast said he had to use cell internet service late at night, but it hindered his ability to spend time with his family or sleep.
It wasn’t long before Mast noticed the lines running across the street. Spectrum’s rural expansion reached his farm and store.
Josh Palmer, senior account executive at Spectrum Business, visited Mast. Josh saw Tim’s frustration with his internet service and took some time to explain to him that more people online using cellular internet sapped speed – but speeds with Spectrum would be much faster. Dairy products are soon available online.
“I grew up in a rural area near Pleasant Hill and understand the impact that connection has,” Palmer said. “I always want to leave a customer better than when I found them. Most importantly, I want to take care of my neighbors and the community in which I live.”
Mast is thrilled with the speeds and enjoys getting his writing done now that he doesn’t have to worry about the “spinning wheel” on his screen. “I get home faster because my work is done,” Mast said. “I can come anytime I want. I don’t have to worry about slow speeds.”
Spectrum’s connectivity and speeds also gave him options when it came to growing his business. He is currently developing an e-commerce website where his customers can place orders online.
Mayor Dowdy views the emerging growth of family-run Sunrise Dairy as just the beginning for the small rural community.
“A lot of people want to get out of cities and need high-speed internet to do what they do,” Daoudi said. “Before we weren’t a destination city for that, but now we are. Everyone is happy to be able to do things like stream TV, get health appointments, make calls with their kids and grandkids. It’s all just improving the quality of life. This is a nice community to live in. It’s small.” Friendly and lovely.
The country town without a stoplight may be small, but traffic now hums at light speed with online traffic.
To learn more about Charter’s commitment to expanding broadband access, click here.