Wise County citizens and business owners are unhappy with local internet service.
That statement is no surprise to most people, but it was recently confirmed by a broadband internet infrastructure survey initiated by the county in partnership with Bridgeport and Decatur economic development corporations (EDC).
There were two surveys – residential and business, and according to results released last week, 97 percent of residents desire better internet service, and 100 percent of the businesses are not satisfied with their service.
Representatives with Design Nine, the technology company that issued the survey, said 579 individuals responded and 54 businesses, a turnout with which they were pleased.
The lopsided results surprised County Judge J.D. Clark.
“On the residential part and business part, it really drives home the point that people are using it for job training, school and working from home. It’s a huge amount of people,” he said. “(Internet use) is not just watching Netflix and playing on Facebook.”
Other results from the residential survey include:
- 95 percent have an internet connection
- 97 percent reported the internet is “very important” to their household
- 59 percent report at least one person in their household is using the internet for school or job training
- 72 percent are trying to use their home internet for work at least part time
- 20 percent are self-employed and trying to work from home
Data from the business survey is as follows:
- 94 percent indicated they needed better internet service
- 100 percent stated the internet is essential to their business
- Only 4 percent are “very satisfied” with their current speed
- 67 percent are “not at all satisfied” with their current speed
- 37 percent are self-employed and work from home full time
Design Nine representatives will return in August to make recommendations on how to upgrade local broadband service but did loosely discuss a few strategies in last week’s meeting.
“There’s a lot of different things we can do,” Clark said. “They’re not recommending the county or city become an internet provider, but there are things we can do through policy.
“If someone bores under our roads, maybe they have to drop some fiber in there,” he said. “If we’re opening a ditch to work on a road, should we be laying some conduit? Things to make it easier for providers.”
Clark said in August Design Nine will recommend some projects to meet immediate needs.
“They’ve talked heavily about things we can do to encourage further wireless expansion,” he said. “We’ve got some good wireless providers getting active in the county. What can we do to encourage them to expand and cover more of the county?
“They will pitch the idea that we don’t have to think about this as one project that has to be 923 square miles, covering the whole county,” he said. “That’s daunting and expensive. But instead they will discuss the importance of designing all components that can eventually work together so if a provider is going to bring fiber down a corridor, then pieces will all jive together.
“If we’re going to talk about how to diversify our economy, it’s obvious this is a major piece.”