How Can I Help?
Jeff Lee, LittleT Broadband
In addition to requests for updates on broadband developments, we have also received a few requests from individuals asking what they can do to help. Though not everyone has the time to become directly involved, there are a number of things that can be done by anyone to make a difference and help get our community better connected.
Take the NC Broadband Survey
One of the most important ways everyone in the area can help is by taking the NC Broadband Survey. Though I can hear the groans and see the eyes rolling at the discussion of yet another survey, this is far more important than many realize.
The number one challenge we face in bringing high-speed broadband into a rural area like WNC is money. Many of us live here because we enjoy the small town atmosphere, and lack of crowds and traffic that plague big metro areas. However, the lack of dense population makes it economically unattractive for broadband providers to come build in this area and deliver service. In most of our rural areas, it costs more to build a network than the money that can be received from service subscriptions. For this reason, one of the few ways to get high-speed broadband networks built in rural areas is to obtain grant funding from the state or federal government.
To date most federal and state broadband grant programs have relied on data collected by the FCC to determine broadband need in a given area. Unfortunately, the reporting of this data can suggest that there is greater coverage in an area than truly exists, and in many cases does not provide an accurate indication of conditions and need. To get a more realistic assessment of need, groups, counties, regions, and states are attempting to collect better information through surveys. This is one of the few ways an individual has to report the actual conditions at their home, business, or in their area.
Though LittleT, the WNC Region A Commission, and other groups have collected local survey information in the past, the state of North Carolina Broadband Information Office has undertaken the effort to create a survey with the goal of assembling a much more complete picture of need across the entire state. The advantage of a state supported and maintained survey is that it carries more weight and importance when used for federal grant applications, and it can be a primary tool for administering state grant funding.
Another nice feature about the NC Broadband Survey is that the state updates the data regularly and makes it available to cities, counties, regional commissions, and non-profit organizations like LittleT. This data can then be used to help compile eligibility and need cases for grant funding at the local level.
Please take 5 minutes to help by completing the NC Broadband Survey.
Letters of Support
As we work with Macon County, the Region A Commission, and partner providers to apply for state, federal, and private grant funding, we must demonstrate need and eligibility. Communities with strong local support are more successful in their efforts to obtain funding, and showing this support can go a long way towards helping to get a grant application approved.
One way a community can help do this is through letters of support and need. Such letters are powerful statements that help to reinforce the need and to endorse the funding effort.
Though it may take a few minutes of your day, please take time if possible and tell community leaders about your situation:
- What is the current internet availability and quality at your location?
- In what ways would availability of high-speed internet benefit your students or personal situation?
- Do you have the need for tele-health services?
- How is high-speed internet essential for your business to compete?
Though a personalized letter that describes your unique situation is always best, we have also provided templates for a Letter of Support. You can use the template as a starting point, or just sign it and send it. Click on the links below to download one of the template copies.
- Letter Of Support.docx - Microsoft Word version of the template that can be downloaded and edited using Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Open Office, Apple Pages, Apple Textedit, etc.
- Letter Of Support.pdf - PDF version of the template that can be downloaded and printed.
Ideally, please send letters electronically. This can simply be done as an email, or an email with a DOCX or PDF letter attached. Letters from individuals and families are welcome. Letters from businesses and especially on business letterhead are also needed. Letters should be sent to:
Director of Economical Development Commission, Macon County
Macon County Broadband Committee member
LittleT Broadband is a non-profit organization with no paid staff. One of the issues that we have struggled with is the lack of volunteer help. Because of this, we must prioritize where the time is spent, which means that many things including communicating with all of you falls behind. As an organization, LittleT could do more with additional volunteers.
A technical understanding of broadband is not required for you to be able to make a difference in helping to bring greater internet connectivity to Macon County. A little of your time- or even more if you have it- can help us move this project forward, faster. Working from your home is possible for many of our projects. Currently we need assistance with non-technical activities involving communication, such as a mailing list and reaching out to members of the community. People to research possible funding options including grants available would help us to plan the financing of additional phases of the project, and grant writers are always needed. Other specific skills such as website development and maintenance would be of use to LittleT as well. Once community center hotspots are available, staffing, supplies, after-school programs, public health outreach, etc. will provide other potential areas for local volunteers to assist.
We have momentum now and better internet in our community is becoming a reality with the South Macon Broadband Expansion Project under way. If you want to become involved at any level, please reach out to us via the Contact Us form on our website.