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  • Jamie Greig

Medium: Connecting Rural Appalachia with Community-Owned Broadband (Mozilla)

4/5/2019 Connecting Rural Appalachia with Community-Owned Broadband

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Connecting Rural Appalachia with

Community-Owned Broadband

The Southern Connected Communities Network

(SCCN) couples access with agency in Tennessee

This is a spotlight on the Southern Connected Communities Network

(SCCN), a grand prize winner in our NSF-WINS challenges. Learn more

about the NSF-WINS competition here.

Mozilla Follow

Sep 25, 2018 · 3 min read




. . .

When you think of high-speed internet, you might picture underground

cables owned and operated by corporate ISPs.

But in New Market, TN, high-speed internet looks like quite the

opposite: an 80-foot tower owned and operated by the very community

members who rely on its connectivity.

This is the approach of the Southern Connected Communities Network

(SCCN), a novel approach to connecting the unconnected in the U.S.,

The Southern Connected Communities Network tower

4/5/2019 Connecting Rural Appalachia with Community-Owned Broadband

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where some 34 million Americans lack high-quality internet access.

SCCN is a project by the Highlander Research and Education Center —

and it just won a $400,000 grand prize in Mozilla and the National

Science Foundation’s NSF-WINS Challenges.

“When you live in the rural South, your kids’ education, your next job,

your healthcare, and your right to a political voice all are limited by

slow, expensive, unreliable, and corporate-controlled internet

connectivity — and that’s if it exists at all,” says Allyn Max􀁢eld-Steele,

Co-Executive Director of the Highlander Center. “So we’re claiming

internet like the human right it has become. We’re building a local

digital economy governed by us and for us.”

How does SCCN work? On a technical level, SCCN uses an 80-foot

tower to draw wireless backbone from Knoxville, TN via the public 11

GHz spectrum. The tower then redistributes this broadband

connectivity to local communities using line-of-sight technology.

But there’s a community aspect, too — the tower is owned and operated

by local residents. “It’s not just about the technological stu􀁩,” Max􀁢eld-

Steele says. “It’s about how do we build it and how do we control it and

demystify it.” This happens through grassroots organizing and

education, Max􀁢eld-Steele explains.

The Southern Connected Communities Network tower

4/5/2019 Connecting Rural Appalachia with Community-Owned Broadband

https://medium.com/read-write-participate/connecting-rural-appalachia-with-community-owned-broadband-817723022187 3/5

He adds: “This project seeks to ground internet access in a human

rights framework: where people not only have access to one of the 21st

century’s most important economic determinants, but where people

can self-determine, collectively, how that access plays out.”

The results have been hugely encouraging: “With this project, we’re

able to connect people from rural Appalachia and the deep south with

folks across the globe,” Max􀁢eld-Steele says.

In the months ahead, the Highlander team will use the prize money to

“organize and build out the initial prototype,” Max􀁢eld-Steele notes.

From there, they’ll scale — bringing their community access approach

to others who, up until now, have been underconnected. “Hopefully

over the next couple years we’ll expand into two or three di􀁩erent

communities,” Max􀁢eld-Steele says.

The Southern Connected Communities Network team

4/5/2019 Connecting Rural Appalachia with Community-Owned Broadband

https://medium.com/read-write-participate/connecting-rural-appalachia-with-community-owned-broadband-817723022187 4/5

4/5/2019 Connecting Rural Appalachia with Community-Owned Broadband

https://medium.com/read-write-participate/connecting-rural-appalachia-with-community-owned-broadband-817723022187 5/5

Our Mission

SCCP aims to build an interconnected series of community controlled broadband infrastructures to deliver coverage initially to communities throughout East Tennessee and Central Appalachia with the ultimate aim of creating a replicable model for community-controlled broadband projects.

 

We aim to play a major role in helping communities we are in deep relationship with design, develop, establish, and maintain their projects and then link them into a cooperative and thriving network that delivers affordable, accessible, and principled broadband throughout Appalachia, the South, and beyond.

© 2019 by the Southern Connected Communities Project