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High-speed Internet access available in 90% of Surry County

September 17th, 2007 · No Comments

Nearly 90 percent of Surry County households and businesses have access to high-speed Internet connections, according to a new study by the e-NC Authority.

The N.C. General Assembly formed e-NC in 2000 to help expand broadband access across the state. Although dial-up Internet access was reported in all 100 counties in 2001, 20 counties reported less than 50 percent availability of broadband in 2002. Today, only four N.C. counties have less then 50 percent high-speed availability.

Three years ago, according to e-NC, 85 percent of Surry County had access to high-speed Internet service. Since then, cable, telephone and wireless providers have pushed that number to 89.68 percent. In the 12-county Triad region, only neighboring Forsyth County (96.7 percent) and Allegheny County (92 percent) have higher penetration; Surry is in a virtual tie with Guilford County’s 90.13 percent.

“Major deployment in urban communities is more-or-less done — what we are now trying to push for is broadband expansion into the most underserved areas of our state, which are often rural and economically disadvantaged,” said Jane Smith Patterson, executive director of the e-NC Authority. “Dial-up won’t cut it anymore — plain and simple. If broadband connectivity levels in this many homes, schools and businesses is so inadequate, we can’t expect companies to thrive and remain competitive, or that our rural children will have a chance to learn the latest technologies and Web-based applications.”

“Counties that lack high-speed connectivity are often at a crucial disadvantage in terms of opportunity and prosperity,” said Oppie N. Jordan, economic developer and appointed chair of the e-NC Authority governing commission. “I have a hard time believing that the citizens of our state would accept only 83.54 percent access to electricity. Likewise, we do not feel that citizens are accepting the reality of only 83.54 percent of homes having access to broadband Internet services. We are in the midst of transformation toward a 21st century, knowledge-based economy. Increasing statewide access to broadband Internet enhances economic progress by allowing citizens to have greater access to health care information, education and job-training opportunities, and support for small businesses and entrepreneurs.”

Now emerging as an infrastructure that is as vital to economic health and prosperity as roads, water, sewer and electricity, advanced telecommunications connectivity, including broadband fiber, rarely extends into communities that are sparsely populated. Geography also plays a role in limiting telecommunications access, particularly in North Carolina’s most mountainous regions.

In Surry County, Sprint Nextel Inc. and Surry Telephone Membership Corp. provide DSL connections and several companies offer DSL-service packages; Time-Warner Cable provides cable access; AT&T Wireless and Fastlink Communications (a Mount Airy-based provider) offer high-speed wireless service; and satellite service is available via HughesNet (formerly DirecWay) to customers with an unobstructed view of the southern sky.

Mount Airy is one of the first U.S. cities to provide free high-speed Internet access throughout its downtown district.

Sprint earlier this summer announced a $14.5-million project that will improve high-speed Internet service north from Elkin along I-77 in Surry County.

Tags: Economic development · Utilities

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