New businesses, restaurants, and a resort community that’s opening this summer . . . there are many good things going on in Loretto.

Another advancement is far less visible, but has tremendous potential to improve the quality of life in Loretto and southern Lawrence County as a whole.
Officials at Loretto Telecom learned in January that they are one of 13 internet providers across the state awarded grants to expand their services into rural areas. The Tennessee Broadband Act is providing $1,050,000 of what will ultimately be a $2,690,300 investment in Lawrence County, said Loretto Telecom General Manager Jason Shelton.
The project will take fiber 61.2 miles into the St. Joseph area, past 219 homes and businesses. “Dial-up” broadband service, a technology that’s completely inadequate for today’s internet users, is the only current option for those residents and business owners.
“We want a futureproofed network in Lawrence County,” Shelton said, and fiber provides that. If internet capabilities were water, dial-up service would be drip irrigation; fiber, a fire hose.
SkyBest Holding Company acquired Loretto Telecom, founded as Loretto Telephone Company in 1946, last January. Investments during its first year of ownership include new fleet vehicles, plows and service equipment; improvements in billing, accounting, and customer software; a new digital switch; and headquarter renovations.
SkyBest also made an immediate $500,000 investment to make fiber available in Loretto. Fiber has been buried and attached to existing telephone poles to make a main line network that covers the area between Busby Road and South Lawrence Elementary, and 40 customers have signed up in the city since October 2018.
Three tiers of internet speed are available: 250 mbps (megabits per second); 500 mbps; or 1,000 mbps (one gigabit). One website I consulted states that broadband speed of just 11.4 mbps is 200 times faster than dial-up.

The fact that Loretto is now a “Gig City” is a huge advantage when it comes to economic development, and the same will be true for those areas designated for expansion by the grant award. It’s been shown that a home’s value increases when fiber simply passes near it, Shelton said.

Loretto Telecom is in the second phase of expansion into the St. Joseph area. The first, staking, determined that a portion of the fiber will be installed underground and some will be attached to poles. Aerial installation is the fastest and cheapest, Shelton said, but becomes more expensive over time due to TVA pole rental charges and the effects of weather on the fiber.

Engineering is underway, then equipment will be ordered. Construction (installation) is expected to begin in the third quarter of this year, then sign-ups begin. Information about the progress of the build is available at is also where interested parties can submit information for the current and future fiber builds.



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