Community Broadband Survey Results

Bill Kirkman, Little T Broadband volunteer

Recently on CBS Sunday Morning there was a segment on “The great broadband divide: Living without high-speed internet access”. Microsoft completed a study that was quoted in the piece showing 162 million Americans don't have broadband internet access. As of 2015, the FCC defines broadband as a minimum of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. The US census bureau estimates the US population July 2019 was 328 million. Half of the US population is unable to access broadband internet service.

The show also states the average download speed in the US is 133 Mbps. According to the Little T Broadband survey, the average for Scaly Mountain and Otto community is 1.3 Mbps (1% of the national average). Your survey feedback provides insight into how we as a community, and you individually, are impacted by this lack of broadband service.

Between March and June this year Little T Broadband asked the Scaly Mountain and Otto communities for feedback about their access and desire for broadband internet. Since the survey was web based, responses are skewed towards those that have internet access. Likely, there is a significant percentage of folks who did not participate in the survey process because they do not have internet access, were not aware, or had no way to communicate information to Little T Broadband.

The response was tremendous with 225 responses representing 8% of the Otto and Scaly Mountain property parcels. Responses were equally spread between Otto and Scaly Mountain with 96% of the responses from residences and 4% from businesses. Here is what the survey said:

Almost everyone sees the value in internet access:

  • 60% interested in extended Internet
  • 39% interested in basic internet

Current internet provider satisfaction (scale of 1 Very Dissatisfied to 5 Very Satisfied)

  • 1.99 average satisfaction across all providers
  • 1.87 satisfaction with Frontier (67% of survey respondents with internet service)
  • 2.4 satisfaction with Morris (5% of respondents)
  • 2.22 satisfaction with Other (likely satellite) (27% of respondents)

Internet usage:

  • 110 tele-work from home
  • 52 have students in the home
  • 36 use medical devices requiring internet access

Additional related services in which community members are interested:

  • 60% TV services
  • 53% Telephone
  • 24% Security

Cellular coverage

  • 54% of respondents have No Cellular coverage
  • 23% have LTE/4G
  • 13% have 3G
  • 9% have 1x 

Perhaps the most insightful section of the survey is the Additional Comments section. A universal theme seems to be that “Everyone no matter how rural should have good services for health and safety.”

For those that have internet service it is often unreliable in both speed and connectivity:

“Connection speed is variable during the day. The download speed is frequently less than what was reported in this survey and it is seldom much better.“

“Internet service is inconsistent and weak when we have it at all. Have given up on entertainment but can’t forfeit health and economical features that are as necessary as indoor plumbing.”

Many residents require reliable Broadband internet service for their jobs, and some are unable to live in our community because of the lack of service:

“Please help! My job is dependent upon internet and cell service. Am tired of going to the library to work!”

“My wife works from home 100% of the time, often her work requires a high-speed Internet connection. She has to leave home and go use Internet connection at a friend’s house with better service.”

“We have operated a business at our location in Scaly Mountain… which has been extremely difficult at times with little to no internet service. Cannot tell you the days that we have not been able to run credit card charges when checking in guests or when trying to add payment for services. …not being able to send and receive email or to bring up websites or… access many pieces of software that we use in our business.”

“…family, with a student, moved away due to lack of internet service in this area. They needed it to work from home and for student’s homework. They would seriously consider coming back if there was internet service.”

“I bought the house 3 years ago and I planned on moving there full time after 2 years of owning but I can’t because I cannot get internet service there. I’m a transplant pharmaceutical rep and cover Tenn / Ga. Which Scaly is the perfect location but I can’t work from home because I can’t get internet service much less even try to make a call on my cell phone…. This is ridiculous and I may have to sell because I can never live and work there. I had no idea that western NC would be like a 3rd world when it came to internet and cell phone coverage.”

“As a realtor it is sometimes difficult to complete sales in many areas of Scaly due to lack of or caliber of cell service. Many potential buyers are younger families from Atlanta who work remotely with national and international companies.”

It is clear there is a strong need for reliable high-speed internet service in the Scaly Mountain and Otto communities. Little T Broadband is a nonprofit organization staffed by volunteers that seeks to bring high-speed fiber-based internet service to our communities. It is a monumental task that will require substantial funding. We are well on our way developing local partnerships with Haywood EMC, BalsamWest and obtaining support from Macon county.

Thank you for providing feedback through the survey. It provides essential insight to better understand the communities needs and desires. The Little T Broadband team will use this information to guide future decisions and actions.