The Guilford County Board of Commissioners has just approved the first step in an effort meant to provide high-speed broadband internet to the speed-challenged parts of the county.
At the board’s Thursday, Sept. 2 meeting, the commissioners approved a move for the county to enter into an agreement with a consultant – who will form the basis of a plan intended to drastically improve internet access and performance in spots where the speeds are currently slower than molasses.
Earlier in 2021, at the board’s annual retreat, the Board of Commissioners named broadband internet enhancement as one of their priorities, and, one of the goals that’s come up repeatedly for years is improving the availability of broadband access to those parts of the county that currently only have slow speeds if any speed at all.
Just like roads, water lines and electricity, high-speed broadband access is a critical component of a strong infrastructure. That’s especially true in today’s pandemic-driven digital economy. The Guilford County commissioners have talked about this problem for years, but the pandemic – and the need of broadband for widescale virtual education really drove home that need in the last year and a half.
Now the board and county staff are taking real steps to address the problem.
At a Thursday, Sept 2 meeting of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, Assistant County manager Jason Jones spoke of the progress of the initiative so far.
Not just Guilford County, but nearly all North Carolina Counties have been making broadband speed a top priority in recent years.
“You all recognize a tremendous local, state and national focus on broadband availability and access,” Jones told the commissioners.
He said fast broadband’s effect can be dramatic on education, health care, economic development and in other respects as well.
Jones said the coming plan will be put together will study the county’s current broadband internet strengths and deficiencies, consider the size and scope of any needed project, and study what role Guilford County government could play while potentially taking advantage of federal funding now available.
County staff, along with the consulting firm and commissioners, would then draw up a focused plan of attack.
Staff has, after a “very extensive national search,” found a consulting partner to help with the plan and county officials are also working closely with the county school system and other “stakeholders” like the cities of Greensboro and High Point.
Commissioner Alan Perdue, who’s spoken about this need for years, said the issue is “near and dear” to his heart.
Perdue said he wants the plan to include better broadband for volunteer fire departments and sheriff’s substations in far-out areas.
Perdue also said the county shouldn’t rely on data from the internet providers for the study.
“I’m skeptical of their own service reports,” Perdue said, adding that he wants the initial study to find the true internet speeds that people are getting in their daily use.
Jones told Perdue that county staff was going to make sure it used objective reliable data.