Jim Weaver: Ensure officials have accurate internet access data

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 29, 2021

By Jim Weaver

Still cannot get high-quality, reliable, high-speed internet service at home? You are not alone.

In fact, more than 500,000 North Carolinians do not have access to broadband because of a lack of population density or geographic barriers that prevent internet service providers from connecting to them.

The pandemic has shone a bright light on just how important broadband is for residents trying to work remotely, learn, visit with health care providers and connect with family and friends. It has become clear that broadband is not a luxury. It is critical infrastructure.

As we continue to recover from the pandemic, we know that expanding affordable, high-speed internet across the state and removing barriers to adoption are more urgent than ever.
The state’s investments in broadband must address these four items — infrastructure, affordability, equitable distribution and digital literacy. And that is why we need to gather better data on who is and who is not currently being served.

Insufficient coverage data hinders efforts to expand broadband to unserved and underserved areas. Right now, service is reported to the Federal Communications Commission by census block, which means that if one address within a census block has high-speed internet service the entire block is considered to be served. That leads to over-reported coverage and inaccurate data for funding decisions.

Here is where you come in.

To build an accurate picture of broadband access, quality and availability, we have designed a five-minute survey, available at ncbroadband.gov/survey. It is a quick and easy way you can make a difference for your community.

We encourage every household and business across the state to take the survey — regardless of the quality of your access. It is available in both English and Spanish and can be taken online for users with internet access and by phone or text for users without service. Residents who need to call can either text “internet” to 919-750-0553 or place a phone call and answer a few short questions. The survey only takes five minutes to complete and is available in English and Spanish.

Providing broadband access to all North Carolinians is a necessary and urgent task, and this additional data will give us a clearer picture of what your internet is really like. Please take five minutes to complete the survey today.

Jim Weaver is the state’s chief information officer.