In continuation of our previous article, several updates have happened or will be happening across our region.
The County Community Clubs of Macon County are conducting a survey to help assess the Internet needs of the county. "The goal of the initiative is to identify underserved areas and work to attract Internet service providers offering expanded service and higher speed options." This survey will run until June 1, 2017 and copies of the survey are being distributed by the Macon County Public Library.
Macon County Public Library is planning to have a community meeting open to the public for information sharing re: Broadband efforts in Macon County, scheduled in the next 45-60 days.
In early April the Southwestern North Carolina Planning and Economic Development Commission executive director, Sarah Thompson, announced they have secured funding for Phase 1 of a broadband planning effort for Region A (Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, and Swain counties) with plans to have a consultant under contract this summer to begin Phase 1. She suggests now is a good time for each county to be forming and convening broadband committees that are representative of the various stakeholders in your communities. That broadband implementation projects will be local, not regional, in most cases. However the planning that needs to occur is the same for each county, so by working together on planning and preparation, we all share resources and save money.
Swain County Broadband committee member Jeff Delfield reports their effort is focused on gathering data on the community’s network infrastructure and services from local sources with a survey planned in the near future.
The k-12 Internet Access at Home Survey. An estimated five million households with school-age children do not have Internet access at home. Students that fall into these "homework gap"- households where internet access is limited or unavailable lag behind in education and are less competitive in the workforce. Data on the number of households affected by the homework gap in North Carolina does not currently exist. The Fontana Regional Library assisted the Broadband Infrastructure Office (BIO) and the Friday Institute at North Carolina State University with announcements and access to the anonymous survey via Fontana Regional Library’s social media outlets and website. These surveys will provide data on where the homework gap exists and potential challenges students face in accessing digital resources.