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Wataugans Encouraged To Participate in Broadband Access Survey by March 10

By Jesse Wood

The Watauga County Board of Commissioners directed staff to conduct a broadband-access survey and encouraged the community to participate in the survey in order identify areas lacking coverage.

“I just encourage people to go and get your friends to do this survey. It doesn’t take long. We need a lot of people and fortunately the people who don’t have the Internet are the ones who need to be on the survey,” Commissioner Billy Kennedy said at Tuesday’s meeting.

Partnering with Appalachian State University and the North Carolina Information Technology Broadband Infrastructure Office, Watauga County developed the broadband survey, which can be accessed on the county’s website.

The public service announcement from the county noted that Internet service is “essential” these days for general communication, accessing information, business execution and the facilitation of learning.

“Education is moving to 1-to-1 with the laptop program, where we send laptops home to students, and if they don’t have the Internet, it’s basically a solitaire machine. So it’s kind of pointless,” Welch said.

The information gleaned from the survey will be used to:

  • Assess our community’s broadband needs
  • Identify unserved or underserved businesses and residences
  • Create a map of potential demand and service assets that will be used to attract service providers offering expanded services and higher speed options

Watauga County Manager Deron Geouque stressed that using physical addresses – and not a PO Box – is important for the survey to identify areas lacking coverage. On Tuesday, Geouque said that the county needs the state’s assistance in pressuring larger companies to provide service in areas lacking broadband because local governments lost its franchising ability.

“The county has no teeth in partnering and working with Charter or Verizon to provide services to our area. I understand their business model is for the biggest bang for the buck and the most change for the dollar and unfortunately riding that out to the rural areas is not really their priority,” Geouque said. “So that’s where we need to address that and see what we can do on a county level.”

The survey link and a link to Frequently Asked Questions can be accessed on the Watauga County’s website at http://www.wataugacounty.org/broadband.

The surveys will be accepted until Friday, March 10, 2017.

If you are unable to access the Internet, broadband services are available for free at the following locations:

  • Watauga County Public Library – 140 Queen Street, Boone NC 28607
  • Belk Library at Appalachian State University – 218 College Street, Boone, NC 28608

Paper copies of the survey are also available at the Watauga County Manager’s Office, 814 West King Street, Boone, NC 28607.

For more information, please call the Watauga County Manager’s Office at 828-265-8000.