Gavin Stone | Daily Journal
Lumber River Council of Governments Executive Director David Richardson told the Board of Commissioners that broadband access should be treated like an essential service like water and electricity.
ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County is encouraging all residents to complete a 7-minute, confidential survey to collect data on broadband speeds that will be used to identify poor internet service areas. Learning the areas of need in the county will help secure funding to address these needs.
Richmond County Information Technology Director Jimmy Quick is on the Lumber River Council of Government’s Broadband Steering Committee, which has been involved in federal grant programs to improve broadband access. Richmond County is now partnering with this committee to form a multi-county group that is working to get a new project going, and the next step is getting community engagement.
“High-speed broadband internet access is critical to the growth of the local economy in both community and business development,” said Kendra Faries, Richmond County Public Health Educator, and Quick in a joint statement.
The survey can be completed from any location using an internet-connected device. However, citizens are highly encouraged to complete the survey from a location where high-speed broadband access is desired, as well as using their current internet service provider.
The only personal information needed in the survey is the address where internet is desired. If you or someone you know does not have any internet service in their home, contact the LRCOG at 910-618-5533 for assistance. Richmond County residents can visit https://www.lrcogbroadband.com/richmond-county-home to complete the survey.
In addition to the survey, residents will be asked to complete a speed test of their current internet, which will help identify areas of priority for infrastructure investment. The study will look at uploads and download speeds, reliability and affordability of internet in Richmond County.
“As we have experienced through the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, fast and reliable internet service is more vital now than ever before,” Faries’s and Quick’s statement continued. “Closing broadband gaps requires data about broadband speeds in homes and businesses throughout Richmond County – especially where service is poor or not available.”
Quick explained at the June meeting of the Richmond County Board of Commissioners that this is the third broadband initiative he’s been involved in, and the challenge each time is the “last mile” of internet access down a country road where internet companies lack incentive to extend service.
“The challenge is always that last mile, getting to the homes at the furthest extremes of the lines,” Quick explained. “A lot of times the carriers don’t find it economically [viable] to get down there, and probably the pathway to ever serving that community is going after some of the federal grant programs and state grant programs.”
Also at the count board meeting, David Richardson, executive director the Lumber River Council of Governments, said internet should be treated as an “essential service” like water and electricity, and highlighted the benefit this investment in new broadband access could have in economic development. Faries said research shows that better internet can open doors to higher income jobs and lower unemployment rates.
“We do know that [broadband access] is the key to moving us forward and this year has really taught us that with everything from tele-working to tele-schooling,” Richardson said.
Matthew Sasser contributed to this report.
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Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]