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County seeks input on local internet service

By Andie Foley
andie.foley@salisburypost.com

Do you currently have internet access at home? How satisfied are you with your current access? Rowan County officials are wanting to know.

From now until Sep. 7, residents are encouraged to weigh in on the county’s internet service and coverage through a Rowan County Broadband Task Force survey.

The survey was sent in this year’s property tax bill mailings to all county property owners. It is also available online at www.rowancountync.gov/broadband.

Rowan County IT Director and Rural Broadband Task Force Chair Randy Cress reports that over 1,000 have responded via the paper form and electronic survey to date. Only 200 responses were received during a similar effort in 2016.

“The results received to date are a good representative sample of all areas across Rowan County including well-served locations and unserved and underserved areas,” he said. “The survey does conclude on Sep. 7, so we’d like to encourage all citizens to participate.”

Through the surveys, Rowan County commissioners and county staff seek to identify areas in the county underserved with internet access, speed, and reliability. The hope, according to County Manager Aaron Church, is to attract internet service providers offering expanded service and higher speed options with the data accumulated.

Cress said improved service would also be utilized by local community sites and public safety services throughout the county and municipalities including law, fire and emergency medical services.

The survey is focusing on broadband, or high-speed internet access that is faster than dial-up connections of yesteryear. Church said this digital connection is essential for the social and economic benefits it provides to residents, businesses, governments and communities.

Recent studies have indicated that there are three underserved areas in Rowan in its northern, western and southeastern regions. For these individuals, connections are limited at best.

“Those that are located in unserved areas from fixed broadband are using combinations or satellite service (and) cellular service such as mobile hotspots and smartphones,” said Cress. “Others will travel to public locations to access free wireless in community buildings such as our county libraries.”

By soliciting private-sector broadband, county staff seeks to close the digital divide between rural and urban communities.

”Input received from our citizen broadband survey will help us provide information to current and potential internet providers in the Rowan County area,” Cress said. “It is important for us to collect as many results as possible to clearly define areas of need and demand for access or higher speed internet services.”

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