By Dave Ongie, News Editor
When Stacy Evans pondered the rich history of Jonesborough’s Main Street, the intersection between the past and the future was astounding.
Evans – chief officer of BrightRidge’s broadband division – noted that Jonesborough’s Main Street once carried stage coaches from Philadelphia down through the Tennessee Valley. Now that same thoroughfare contains fiber optic cable carrying the fastest Internet connection on the market to business owners in the historic downtown.
“If this road could speak, it could tell you a lot of history,” Evans said. “No doubt about it. But looking today and knowing that we’ve buried fiber under this road and we’re providing services that aren’t even available in most major cities is very exciting.”
A ceremony that included the Johnson City/Washington County Chamber of Commerce, leaders of local government and representatives from BrightRidge was held last Thursday afternoon on the steps of Main Street Café, BrightRidge’s first commercial fiber broadband customer. Zach Jenkins of Main Street said the service signaled a major leap forward for the restaurant, which previously did not have access to high-speed Internet.
Jonesborough is now the sixth area in the country with 10 Gigabit residential Internet services, joining Chattanooga, Salisbury, N.C., Detroit, Minneapolis and a slice of southern Vermont. Evans said the symmetry of BrightRidge’s service – which allows customers to download at the same rate they upload content – helps set BrightRidge’s broadband apart.
In the past, the Internet was essentially a one-way street where people downloaded content but rarely uploaded anything. But that is changing rapidly, and the ability to upload content such as video efficiently could give our region a leg up as leaders work to recruit and retain young talent.
Johnson City manager Pete Peterson recently singled out BrightRidge’s “lightning-fast” Internet as a potentially valuable tool in recruiting young professionals to the area. He said access to a fast, efficient broadband service may soon present professionals tired of sitting in traffic in urbanized areas like Nashville the opportunity to telecommute from the Tri-Cities, where the cost of living is much lower and the outdoors are easily accessible.
Earlier in the week, BrightRidge partnered with TVA and Silicon Ranch to officially open the region’s first solar farm. The facility is located just down the road from Jonesborough in Telford.
Brightridge announced that 87 percent of its community solar production has already been allocated to subscribing commercial and residential customers.
“This was not a hard sell at all,” said Brightridge CEO Jeff Dykes. “Without an official marketing push, both commercial and residential customers jumped on this opportunity. It demonstrates real demand in our marketplace for a clean energy product that avoids the high cost of private commercial and residential solar installations.”
The entire project was developed in partnership with TVA under its Distributed Solar Solutions program.
“Partnership projects like the BrightRidge solar farm align to the mission of TVA,” said Chris Hansen, director of TVA Origination and Renewables. “Community solar combines energy and environmental stewardship to provide access to customers and businesses who support clean energy.”
Jonesborough mayor Chuck Vest took a moment on Thursday to ponder all the progress taking root in and around his historic town as of late.
“I tell people all the time, here in Jonesborough, we’re not only going to protect our history, we’re going to carry it into the future,” Vest said. “It sounds like now we’ve brought the future down to our history.”