N.C. County Begins Survey Process to Improve Broadband

In the hopes of providing Internet service providers with proof that there are customers going unserved, Caldwell County is partnering with the state’s Broadband Infrastructure Office to gather the data.

by Virginia Annable, News-Topic / April 24, 2019

(TNS) — Caldwell County, N.C., is taking steps to help improve Internet connectivity in the region, especially in rural areas, officials said.

After hearing from residents over the years about poor Internet quality, or no connection at all, the county decided to take steps to solve the problem, and formed a committee to study the issue last fall, said Micah Kelly, Caldwell's geographic information system director.

Now, the county is collecting information by asking citizens to complete a survey to tell the county where they are and what the Internet connection is like in their home or business.

"We're trying to see how many people can't get it and how bad it is out there," Kelly said.

Once the information is in, Kelly will map where the coverage is lacking.

Since the government does not provide Internet service, the data is a way to get private companies interested in business in areas where there is no Internet but a clear demand for it, Kelly said.

To help in the effort, the county enlisted the help of Keith Conover, a technical analyst with the Broadband Infrastructure Office in the North Carolina Department of Information Technology. Conover will work with companies that are already in the area to show them the need and try to get them to expand their coverage, Caldwell County Public Information Technician Eric Stafford said.

"We say, 'Hey, people really want Internet out here,'" Stafford said. "We tell the companies, 'You've got business waiting for you right here.'"

The hope is that the companies already in the area will bid for the new business, but if they aren't interested, the state reaches out to other small broadband providers, Stafford said.

"It kind of stirs up some competition," he said. "And then [other companies] usually increase their game locally, and that helps everyone."

To help those companies provide service in rural areas, the county is offering any of its buildings, water tanks or communication towers for companies to use as high points to mount signal towers, Kelly said.

The county is sending the survey home with students in schools for parents to fill out, has it available in the county office and has it online at www.caldwellcountync.org.

©2019 the News-Topic (Lenoir, N.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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