Broadband survey needs more rural responses

Haywood County leaders are still in the process of collecting data on broadband Internet service, but they need help from residents living in rural parts of the county. 

Maggie Valley Mayor Ron DeSimone sits on the Haywood County Economic Development Commission and is heading up the effort to bring better broadband service to the county.

He estimates most of Haywood County currently receives between three and six megabytes of service, while many other places get up to 50 megabytes and large cities can get up to 100.

The broadband committee began seeking responses to a survey in November that will assess the community’s broadband needs and identify underserved business and residential areas. The committee will use the information to create a map of potential demand and service assets with the goal of attracting providers who will offer higher speed options.

About 400 have completed the survey, but DeSimone would like thousands of responses so the committee can have an accurate picture of where better service is needed. Responses from residents in more rural areas like Fines Creek, Crabtree, White Oak and Cruso are particularly vital. 

“There are a lot of rural areas where we’re not seeing a strong response yet I know they are not served at all, so we’re still trying to get the word out,” he said. 

Having better broadband capabilities will not only make Haywood County more attractive to prospective businesses that rely on fast Internet, it will make it easier for people who work from home here in the mountains. 

DeSimone said there are many semi-retired professionals who would like to move to their second home in Haywood County permanently if they could telecommute — but they need more bandwidth to make it happen. 

‘The biggest thing is we need addresses to plot on the map to show pockets of need so we can start to see what assets we can get in those directions,” DeSimone said. “Then we can attract more providers — the more options we have, the less expensive it will be and the more bandwidth we’ll be able to get.”

The broadband committee is in discussions with several providers who may be interested in installing new equipment and offering better service if they see that the need and the customers are there. 

Completing the survey doesn’t mean residents are committing to anything. The questions only ask if residents have a home-based business, whether they have sufficient Internet service and whether they would be willing to pay for better service. 

The survey can be found online on the Haywood County website,  www.haywoodnc.net/broadband, and the libraries also have paper surveys for residents to fill out. 

DeSimone said the survey would be available for a while until the committee gets a larger response rate, but the sooner the better. The broadband committee will start compiling the data on Feb. 28.

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