LAURINBURG — County officials and the public got to hear about the Regional Broadband Study and about fiber Monday morning.
The study is being done in the five-county region — Richmond, Hoke, Robeson, Bladen and Scotland — which has been going on for the past year and a half.
“We know that broadband is a struggle throughout our five-county area and we really want to do what we can to expand that broadband access,” said David Richardson, executive director of the LRCOG,. “Over the past year and a half with COVID we’ve really learned all those challenges and consequences and really how important it is from telemedicine to tele-schooling.”
The project’s technical consultant, Jeff Brooks, with ECC Technologies, LLC, presented the results to those attending the morning meeting.
“Fundamentally what the COG did is they looked at what would be the economic drivers for the region,” Brooks said. “They consider broadband to be one of those drivers … so we’ve done these types of projects in multiple counties so we believed we had the expertise to support the goals that the council of governments had.”
Brooks explained that as an example they would look at where fiber is coming into the city and where it’s leaving the city instead of looking at an unincorporated area.
“We’re looking for the availability of the infrastructure to support the expansion of fiber not for whether each individual house has fiber,” Brooks said. “If I’m trying to expand service into a new area and there’s fiber there that’s backbone fiber or distribution fiber I don’t have to take the time to build new fiber, it’s already there. So I can go buy some of that fiber or rent some of that fiber and I speed up my deployment rather than if I had to build all new fiber.”
Brook shared where some of the telephone fiber lines are throughout the county along with cable fiber and where hybrid sites could go.
“One of the things to think about when you look at this fiber is that if I’m building a fiber backbone network I’m going to spend between $50,000 to $60,000 a mile to build that network,” Brooks said. “Now it gets a little less expensive when I get down to the distribution fiber, a little less expensive when I get down to the lateral files.”
Brooks explained there were 426 assessments done in the county but the URL saw around 10,000 visits.
“Almost three-quarters of our participants took it with their cellphone,” Brooks said. “Generally it’s half but you guys blew it out of the water … Scotland spent 5 minutes and 56 seconds on the survey page. If I see that it tells me people in Scotland County took a little bit more time to think about it in terms of their answers.”
From the survey, 48% of people said that they couldn’t or didn’t know if they could get the speed of broadband they needed; half said they had trouble working from home; more than half said they had trouble doing school work online.
Those who took the survey could also add comments which included stated that the county should be providing the service to wanting more internet provider options.
Brooks shared that ECC Technologies is open to the local entities for questions they might have moving forward with bringing more broadband to the area or any later questions about the presentation.
Reach Katelin Gandee at email@example.com.