Public will be surveyed on their broadband access

How many people have high-speed internet in Louisa County? The Louisa County Broadband Authority wants to find out.

The authority has teamed up with Commissioner of the Revenue Stacey Fletcher to send out a five-question survey to all residents via their personal property tax notices.

Residents should start receiving the survey in the next few weeks. It will include an envelope for residents to send back their answers to questions such as, “Do you have broadband internet?” and “Do you subscribe to a service provider? Why or why not?”

For those who live in a location where they could have internet access but don’t subscribe, the authority wants to know what’s stopping them. Some possible reasons are that people don’t have a computer or subscription costs are too high.  

On the Federal Communication Commission’s website, data from December 2018 indicates 62 percent of Louisa County has access to three or more fixed residential broadband providers; the other 38 percent of the county has access to at least two providers. If that’s true, every household in the county should have access to broadband internet, but only 75 percent of Louisa residents actually subscribe, according to the 2018 Census American Community Survey.

The authority is hoping to get a “more definitive answer on who has broadband and who doesn’t in Louisa County,” said Ed Jarvis, broadband authority chairman. “I’m not sure where [the FCC] is getting their information from, but we know that’s not true.”

“Without accurate data, it’s hard to get grants. According to those giving grants, we’re covered—we don’t get any money for grants,” he said. “We want to compile the survey results and get it to a representative to say, ‘Look, this is how many people in Louisa actually have broadband. This is why we need more money.’”

The survey results will be used to formulate a strategic plan for the future.  If the data is accurate — 100 percent of households in Louisa have access to broadband — there’s no need for the authority to do anything else.

The authority is currently completing work on a network of wireless towers to give more residents a chance to connect to broadband service. What comes next is yet to be determined.

County leaders appear to agree that they should focus on developing a fiber-optic network to provide broadband, but it’s unclear how that will happen. Central Virginia Electric Cooperative continues work on fiber-optic lines in the western end of the county.

SCS Broadband, the company contracted to provide services on the authority’s wireless towers, said recently it would not release to the public how many households have gained better broadband service as a result. The company said it would share the information with members of the authority, however.

The next broadband authority meeting is March 4 at 7 p.m.

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