Approximately 30 miles separate Morristown and Newport, but the two are joining forces to better connect local businesses and residents as entrepreneurs take up residence in the region's newest high-tech work space.
An Incubator for Innovation in Morristown
SkyMart Venture Place is a new cooperative workspace stirring innovation in the quaint downtown district of Morristown.
Morristown was on the forefront of implementing city-wide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) back in 2006. Today their gigabit network MUS FiberNET is fostering innovation in this thriving co-working space and helping neighboring communities bridge their connectivity gaps. Lynn Wolfe explains that the new space has helped support her in the early stages of her business. “[SkyMVP] gives me a place—with super-fast internet—to come and do my internet marketing, and it has been very beneficial for that and being able to upload my training videos,” Wolfe said.
SkyMVP’s doors opened in August of last year and it’s become a hub for local entrepreneurs. The space allows members to hold workshops, rent office space, and network with other professionals.
Similar incubator projects are underway in Virginia’s Roanoke Valley and Indianola, Iowa. SkyMVP is yet another example of how gigabit connectivity can spur positive transformations for local communities. Morristown’s decision to invest in FTTH infrastructure is emboldening their local economy and potential for small business growth in the area is promising. Sky MVP has even begun offering a course for budding entrepreneurs and a handful of free workshops.
Expanding the 'Net in Newport
Morristown’s leap in connectivity is spreading. Morristown Utility Commission (MUC) is partnering with Newport Utilities (NU) to expand Internet connectivity in the region. MUC and Newport officially announced a 7-year contract in which MUC will supply NU wholesale Internet access and third-party Voice over IP services.
As part of a smart grid project, Newport is able to capitalize on their proximity and relationship with Morristown and bring better connectivity to residents, businesses, and other entities. The initial stages of laying 13 miles of the community-owned Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) networks is underway and Newport residents expect to start obtaining services from NU Connect by January 1st.
This is an exciting development for building local power and expanding connectivity, but it also has the potential to become a model for other similarly situated communities. The agreement has allowed Newport to improve its local telecommunications at a cheaper cost than if it had to deploy the project from the ground up. Inline with other FTTH communities in Tennessee, Newport Utilities plans to offer a affordable monthly plan; $40 per month for 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) and gigabit access is available for $100 per month. All speeds are symmetrical.
Newport recently received a $21 million loan from the USDA Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to expand their smart grid project, which will allow them to bring high-quality connectivity to their entire service area. The smart grid applications will also allow NU to maximize the electric system's efficiencies and reduce outages. They anticipate construction to be completed during 2018.