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Broadband internet availability in Chatham

By Marian Norton
Posted Saturday, March 29, 2014

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Pittsboro, NC - From Saturday's Chatlist:"Are there any OTHER internet providers in Pittsboro other than Time Warner and CenturyLink?"

It does appear that if you have access to both Time Warner Cable and CenturyLink for internet service you are among the elite and well-served in the county. You may think otherwise!. You could still get a satellite dish if you live in an area that allows that, or rely on mobile in areas where there are cell signals. In select areas you may be able to get fixed wireless through Chatham Wireless. Charter Communications provides some service in Siler City.

Information on service providers in the county is available on the county government website. Our county commissioners recently addressed CenturyLink about their coverage and provision of service in Chatham County (Work session of Dec. 19, 2013, video available http://vimeo.com/channels/chathambocmeetings/82121080. CenturyLink is featured at end of part I and beginning of part II). The "special pricing" of broadband mentioned is of no use if there is not an activated line to your home. Please watch if you have sufficient bandwidth and also watch "The Internet Must Go" on You Tube or this link. Near the end of this documentary the condition of rural NC broadband is featured. It is a sad but realistic portrayal.

I happen to live at the "wrong" end of Dewitt-Smith Road and can not, and will not in the near future, get DSL service from CenturyLink. CenturyLink does NOT provide service along HWY 902 from Rocky River to Meronies Road, this includes western end of DeWitt-Smith Road, eastern McLaurin Road (as far west as Alex Watson Road), western end of Meronies Road, and all roads in between. CenturyLink did build a new hub at the Pittsboro-Goldston Road end of Dewitt-Smith Road, even though the residents across the road from the "new hub" had been served with DSL for years. There will be some new homes served, so this is good news for a few home owners on the north side of the creek and on the east end of Dewitt-Smith Road. CenturyLink told the county commissioners that only 24 percent of people sign up when service comes by their home, making service unprofitable. This figure, however, is a "statewide" figure and not relevant to areas of Chatham where they are the only provider. I expect the percentage of homes who acquire or attempt to acquire service in rural Chatham when it is made available is much--much higher! I don't understand their reluctance to provide service or deploy fiber. It seems they are in a good position where they are the only wired provider. How could they "afford" to spend their own capital bringing improved service to the east side of my census block while claiming the "west" side is not profitable? I have to agree with the comment of one of our commissioners, If you don't want us, let someone else take us! If the service is so poor that some still choose satellite or mobile over DSL then the quality of service needs to be improved! Believe me, If I had the only restaurant in town and the customers wanted to buy chicken---I would be ordering and fixing chicken!

It appears that our county commissioners can not do a lot to make any provider (even when they have an "exclusive" area) provide service. State law and the fact that broadband has not by law been deemed an essential service, are leaving many areas of rural NC, including Chatham, with unserved homes simply because the providers chose not to expand in some areas or exchanges or extend service up a certain road.

TWC and Comcast do not appear to have any desire to serve rural Chatham and CenturyLink does not seem to have a plan to meet the current needs or the needs of the near future. There should be some kind of plan in place to reach every home and to meet the speed and broadband needs of the future. The National Broadband Plan does not seem to aim at 100% coverage, so it is OK that I and many neighbors don't have coverage---yet we must continue to send money to Washington--so that that plan can be implemented!

So much today cannot be accomplished without broadband service. Most all job applications job searches, and professional development are done on-line. Much education from HS through college is dependent in some way on the internet. One cannot even get a printed catalog of classes from the community colleges anymore. The only way to apply for financial aid is on-line. We cannot see economic progress in all areas of our county without adequate internet. Property values drop to nil when no access is available (but we're taxed in the same way as homes with broadband service). A person cannot even shop for "Affordable Health Care" (require by law) without going on-line. Yes, I know, they do have a phone number, but I would compare that to years ago, not having a Sears catalog. Sure, I could call Sears and ask them to look up something for me, but they would first have to find it and then describe it to me over the phone and I would have to decide if this "verbal description" is what I want. Shopping over the phone is a lot different than having a catalog or getting information on-line. No catalog of health insurance products has been printed by the federal government for those without internet service.

It appears that at one time Chatham County had a Broadband Committee (I found it mentioned in a 2009 document). Does anyone know if that committee is still functioning? It is five years later and access is still a struggle for many residents. If anyone has any ideas on what we can do to get service, please let me know.

 
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