Tryon - Homegrown Tools

Tryon, NC

Updated: 2022

A rural community that was cut-off from state-of-the-art broadband technology took matters into its own hands. Tryon financed and built a fiber optic network cable to provide its residents and businesses with broadband Internet access.

Median Household Income2020$45,403
Poverty Rate 202017.2%
Proximity to Urban Center 48 miles to Spartanburg, S.C.
Proximity to Interstate Highway 26 miles
Case Study Time Frame 2000-2007
Municipal Budget FY20214.3 million
Data Source: US Census, American Community Survey
View Complete Case StudyUpdated: Tryon, 2022

In an era of global communication and digital learning, the rural town of Tryon created a cutting-edge fiber-optic network to connect schools, public sector officials and businesses to the Internet. Plagued by slow and inconsistent online access, Tryon’s leaders appealed to private Internet providers to upgrade the local network. Rebuffed, community leaders took matters into their own hands. In 2002, a volunteer commit- tee of citizens spearheaded the effort to obtain grant funding and build a seven-mile high-speed fiber-optic network from Tryon to the county seat, Columbus. By upgrading its broadband capacity, Tryon is providing local businesses, residents and public school students with the Internet infrastructure necessary for each to compete globally. “This network is important to Tryon’s future economic success,” said Kipp McIntyre, the Polk County economic development director. “Fiber is as essential to businesses today as electricity and water was to businesses in the past.”


What are the lessons learned from this story?


Broadband infrastructure is critical for economic growth. The long-term outcome of Tryon’s strategy is years and perhaps decades off, but the community’s intuition – that broadband infrastructure is a key ingredient to prosperity – is in line with evidence from elsewhere. Recent research by the U.S. Economic Development Administration suggests that higher rates of economic growth occur in areas served by broadband versus a matched sample of areas that are not. Broadband Internet is the new highway, and communities will be wise to plan ways to get their students, businesses and residents connected.


Rural communities can be leaders in connecting their residents to broadband Internet. Rural communities interested in updating telecommunications infrastructure face the challenge of an insufficient local market. In some cases, Internet providers argue that the local market is not large or pro table enough to provide high-speed Internet service. In response, many communities choose to wait for their market to grow and justify private investment. But by waiting, small town leaders are likely passing on economic growth. Instead of waiting, Tryon created its own top-quality Internet network. In doing so, E-Polk Inc. and its president, Jeff Byrd, are proving that there is a market for high-speed Internet in small town America. “Every day I have more and more businesses and residents calling me to say, ‘DSL is too slow. We need your service,’” Byrd said.