Believe it or not, even in 2021 there are still areas of the country where access to broadband internet is inconsistent at best, and nonexistent at worst. Thankfully things are not that bad around Blue Ridge or in Fannin County in general, but this is a rural area with some very remote parts, and the quality of internet you have access to is going to have a lot to do with where your new home is located.
Generally speaking most moderately populated areas in Fannin County have access to decent broadband internet by way of Ellijay Telephone Company, which is usually just called ETC now. The main reason it’s probably called just ETC, besides being easier to say, is because Ellijay TELEPHONE Company is actually the area’s cable company. ETC does provides telephone service in addition to cable TV and internet, but even that signal comes in via your cable connection. In Georgia ETC broadband cable internet is available in Blue Ridge, Epworth, McCaysville, Mineral Bluff and Morganton. In Tennessee ETC is available in Copperhill and Ducktown, as well as in some of the nearby communities of Grassy Creek, Isabella, Belltown and Turtletown
As weird as the whole telephone/cable thing may seem, most people in the area tend to agree that ETC provides super fast internet and really good customer support for those who live within their service area. As of the date this article was written ETC’s cable internet, known as IGNITE, starts at $50 per month for a 20mb down/2mb up connection and tiers all the way up to $120 per month for a 300mb/30mb connection with no limits or data caps.
Some ETC customers who are really lucky are within range of ETC’s constantly expanding Fiber Optic network. If you find yourself in one of these areas ETC IGNITE Fiber will cost you anywhere from $50 for a 50mb/50mb connection all the way up to $130 for the highly coveted 1GB/1GB connection. So interestingly, pricing tiers for ETC cable internet and their fiber offering are identical, with one extra tier available to fiber customers who want to scale all the way up to 1Gb.
In the more remote areas of Fannin County where ETC cable broadband is not available, many residents have to depend on DSL service from TDS. Where ETC is usually well liked and appreciated their customer, TDS frequently comes out on the other end of the customer satisfaction spectrum. TDS has racked up a lot of complaints of slow internet speeds, barely functioning service and poor customer support. To be fair DSL technology hasn’t really advanced much in the last 20 or 30 years and your speed depends a lot on how close you are to telephone company equipment, but TDS operates in several states and consistently racks up similar complaints from customers across the country. Some of these complaints have resulted in lawsuits, including at least one class action, accusing TDS of intentionally misrepresenting their capabilities.
Unfortunately, depending on where your home is located in Fannin County, TDS DSL may be your only terrestrial internet option. Though TDS does have some fiber internet connections available, they don’t make a service map publicly available so it’s not easy to tell how many customers in the Blue Ridge area they service.
Unfortunately (or maybe not depending on how you look at it), there are some areas near Blue Ridge and around Fannin County that have no traditional broadband access whatsoever. These outlying areas, while remote, aren’t as sparsely populated as they once were as more and more cabins pop up in ever farther reaches of the county.
Until now, absence of internet access has just been accepted as a way of life for some folks in remote areas of the county. But thanks to Space X all of that is about to change, when Starlink comes on line in this area late in 2021. Starlink is the new low Earth orbit satellite communications network launched by Space X that claims to be providing consistent speeds of at least 100Mb down/20Mb up, with latency low enough to allow normal streaming or gaming.
You can pre-register for Starlink now here. According to their website, Starlink will be available in the Blue Ridge area in mid to late 2021. $99 will be due at registration, with the total costs being $499 for a Starlink satellite dish and related hardware, $50 for shipping, $99 per month for internet service and state and local sales tax.
The bottom line
The old real estate adage “location location location” really applies when it comes to finding decent internet access in the Blue Ridge and Fannin County area. If you don’t do your research ahead of time you run the risk of being annoyed by sketchy internet at the least, or being completely without internet access altogether in extreme circumstances. In the past this might not have mattered that much, but so much of our lives happen online today that for most people inadequate broadband internet access would be an actual burden, and for people who work from home or depend on the internet for things like communication between a piece of medical equipment and a remote server it would be a complete deal breaker.
It’s really easy to get caught up in the house buying process, especially when it’s a cabin on the side of a mountain with a view of three states. But be smart and do your research before you make an offer. At the very least talk to the current owners about internet options, or if that’s not an option check the address through the online forms at the area’s ISP websites to make sure service is available. And if you are in the “dealbreaker” category it wouldn’t hurt to call up and get a human to confirm that you will have access to the level of internet access you require.