Upgrades coming along to Cherokee Cablevision infrastructure

by Mar 10, 2022NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments



One Feather Staff


BalsamWest took over operations of Cherokee Cablevision in December 2021 and has been working to upgrade the system.  Those improvements are coming along, but there is still a lot of work to be done says Jason Maples, BalsamWest vice president of sales and marketing.

“I think the overarching theme on this is I know a lot of folks aren’t necessarily seeing progress, but it’s kind of like a river that looks still but underneath it’s moving – it’s hard to see,” said Maples.  “But, there is steady progress on both fronts.”

He said the project has been challenging.  “We have a very old system that we’re trying to clean up, so to speak.  We’re like the little Dutch boy with the dam, running around plugging holes, fixing sections.”

Maples said there isn’t a hard timeline for the improvements to be finished.  “However, you’ll see steady, incremental progress throughout the rest of this year to get the Cablevision plant up to snuff. And by up to snuff I mean improved video speeds, improved internet quality, and expanded area coverage.”

He added, “There are some sections of that cable plant that, because of the age of the system, you just can’t get an internet signal any further. Even though the cable system goes out further, there are video-only customers, so to speak. So, that gives you a sense of the challenge.  With this series of upgrades, not only are we going to offer better products, but we’re going to offer expanded coverage.”

Fiber has been ordered for the first two places on the fiber project.  “Within a couple of years, you may have 5 gig service.  But, out of the gate, we will probably stop at one gig.  The system will be capable of going multi-gig.”

According to information from BalsamWest, “Once residents are on the fiber internet, if residents have adequate battery back-ups, the internet will still work even if the power goes out.”

A total of five electronic “fiber huts” will be located around the Qualla Boundary with three already being selected including the Yellowhill Activity Center, Tribal Bingo, and the Birdtown Gym.

“The fiber hut is a field network operations center – an on-ramp and an off-ramp to the larger regional network of BalsamWest which connects to the internet,” said Maples.

He said that everyone at BalsamWest is committed to improving the system.  “I realize that residents and enrolled members have had to deal with less than stellar or optimal service in the past, and I realize that there’s a lot of frustration and anger.  This is a monster project – two monsters, the existing system and the new system.  There’s a lot to do to get it where it needs to be.  We don’t have the luxury of just shutting everything down and starting it from scratch.  It’s like of like changing a tire on a moving car.”

Maples continued, “I know the entire community has a ton of questions and a ton of frustrations.  Frankly, we’re in a digital world and COVID just amplified that many times over.  I truly understand the frustration.  The Cablevision Board and the EBCI government is all behind this and we’re doing everything we can to make this happen.  It’s just not a quick process.  It can be a little tricky in the timing of it.  But, incremental progress is being made every day.”

He said as the project progresses, BalsamWest will be able to announce more of a timeline on the improvements.  “Right now, we’re just trying to plug the worst holes as we start looking forward to building the fiber and improving the existing network.  There will be improvements.  It’s just going to take us the balance of this year to really have it noticeable by a lot of people.”

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians became 100 percent owners of Cherokee Cablevision in November 2020.  A feasibility study on the issue was completed by R TECH GROUP, from Cumming, Ga., in June 2018.  According to the feasibility study, “There would be a very compelling benefit for the EBCI Fiber cable plant to be combined with the Cablevision Fiber routes and develop a larger-scale fiber cable network and establish opportunity to pass 6,400 member’s homes, providing services to a large percentage of EBCI members.”