Established in 1951 as a member-owned cooperative, SkyLine/SkyBest has been providing people in northwest North Carolina and east Tennessee the ability to communicate for decades. The telecommunications provider has been expanding since its founding, now offering gig-capable fiber networks, voice over internet protocol business systems and solutions, security, streaming TV, medical alert services and surveillance services.
A significant project the company has worked on in the past 12 years is the completion of its fiber-to-the-premise initiative. The FTTP brings fiber connections directly to the customer’s location, providing the fastest internet available and a solid connection. The project led to SkyLine/SkyBest being among the first rural providers to be certified as a gig-capable provider and being the recipient of the Smart Rural Community Showcase Award by the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association — the Rural Broadband Association.
While just more than 25 percent of U.S. consumers and 27.3 percent of North Carolina residents can get fiber, according to broadbandmap.fcc.gov, 99 percent of SkyLine’s cooperative service footprint has availability to fiber-based internet services. An investment of $200 million for a 30-year plan, the FTTP initiative was actually finished well ahead of schedule, taking only 12 years to complete.
Besides investing heavily in a state-of-the-art fiber system, SkyLine has also worked to ensure that when people lose connection, they can get back to it quick. The cooperative regularly reviews and updates their Disaster Preparedness procedures and, with the implementation of the FTTP network, put in place geo-redundant sites and diverse fiber connections. SkyLine’s core network offers five divergent paths to Tier 1 Internet backhaul locations that ride on an intelligent and self-healing, fully-monitored fiber-optic ring with a service reliability of 99.9 percent of uptime. SkyLine has also implemented automated rules that result in both staff and automation to clear troubles throughout the network.
Skyline isn’t just connecting the community to the internet, they’re also taking an active role in it. Since 1987, SkyLine has provided more than $500,000 in scholarships to children of its customers and in more recent years, awarded technology grants to area schools exceeding $300,000 and administered more than $1.3 million through its Revolving Loan Fund for variety of economic development projects designed to create/retain jobs and to provide essential community services.
Looking to the future, SkyLine CEO Kim Shepherd said she’s committed to upholding the company’s mission of ‘providing state-of the-art communications and technology solutions enabled by a culture of excellence in customer service.
“We have to stay ahead with technological advancements and continue to look at growth opportunities,” Shepherd said. “We will continue to be a role model company for others in our industry from a technology, network and innovation perspective but also from a cultural perspective. To us, every connection we make matters. SkyLine is a family oriented company that cares about and takes care of its employees. SkyLine also is a great community partner. We are local, and we are proud of that.”
SkyLine/SkyBest currently serves the areas of Alleghany, Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties in North Carolina and Johnson County in Tennessee. Through the subsidiary SkyBest Holdings, LLC, the company plans to expand even further into Tennessee and upstate South Carolina.