Morgan County receives Smart Rural Community status

Highland Telephone Coop provides broadband access to entire county

Highland Telephone Coop General Manager Mark Patterson announced Thursday morning that Morgan County is now a Smart Rural Community.

A Smart Rural Community is an initiative of NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association. A Smart Rural Community promotes rural broadband networks and broadband-enabled applications that rural communities can leverage to foster innovative economic development, education, health care and other vital services.

Highland Telephone Coop achieved the status after recently completing broadband work in the Coalfield community. All of Morgan County now has broadband access.

“Highland Telephone and Highland Communications have finished putting fiber in the Coalfield area so now we serve all the homes down there with up to gigabyte speeds,” Patterson said.

Highland Telehone Coop has been working for years to upgrade technology. The work has been difficult at times in such a rural area.

“Luckily, Coalfield was not on of those,” Patterson said. “We had finished in 2015 builiding all the Coop area, Deer Lodge, Lancing, Petros and that area. The Petros area was probably the most difficult to build given the terrain, but we finished all those in ’15, and then we were awarded an RUF Community Connect Grant and we used that money to build the Coalfield area.”

Becoming a Smart Rural Community is not easy as the network is made up of a group of carefully vetted, rural broadband providers who are committed to driving growth and creating opportunities for their communities, especially as the demand for distance learning, telemedicine and remote work grows. And for those who live in these communities, it means equal opportunity for education, resources, entrepreneurship and more.

Patterson says broadband access is now as important as other everyday utilities.

“They ask do I have broadband capability at my house,” he said. “It’s that important; it’s right there with having electricity and water at your house. People want broadband when they move in. It gives people the opportunity to work from home and have education from home.”


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