Brittney Burns – Staff Writer
Macon County’s IT Director Andy Muncey and GIS coordinator Wes Hall completed a thorough report of the county’s Internet coverage, giving Macon County and service providers with tangible numbers to refer to when looking at improving connectivity in the county.
Muncey and Hall presented their findings to commissioners last week, and were able to show conclusively what areas in Macon County are lacking coverage and where residents have more than one provider to choose from, among other things.
Using the county’s GIS mapping software, the pair was able to determine that out of the county’s 30,161 parcels of land with structures, 27,064 parcels contain structures that are valued over $10,000. The $10,000 threshold was used because typically, a structure valued over $10,000 can be assumed to be residential or commercial and needing Internet.
Muncey and Hall then used data from public domain coverage maps sourced from Broadband.gov and NCbroadband.gov and overlaid them on the Macon County GIS data to produce reports and summaries that now give county officials information for the first time as to the actual coverage of Internet in Macon County.
Muncey presented commissioners with data from Northland Cable, Morris Broadband, and Frontier, which were the providers available from the websites regarding coverage. In terms of Muncey’s findings, broadband is defined by its speed, which was 25/3 or 25 mbps (mega bytes per second) download and 3 mbps upload, which Muncey says is the new standard for anything tangible in terms of being able to adequately use the Internet for today’s needs.
Based on Muncey’s research, 9,985 of the 27,064 parcels surveyed have 25/3 broadband availability from Frontier. 4,407 have availability from Northland Cable, and 11,076 have availability from Morris Broadband.
In terms of service area, Franklin has the highest number of residents able to receive service at 2,737 parcels. Highlands comes in second with 2,128 parcels able to receive service. Based on the maps, 70 percent of the parcels surveyed fall within service availability by one of the three providers and 30 percent are not covered at all.
Muncey noted that one of the things they found to be helpful moving forward is, the chance of 70 percent of parcels actually having availability is inaccurate. So if the county is able to show providers what areas actually have service and which ones do not, it will help fill in gaps of availability throughout the county.
“This is a tremendous starting point and a great first step,” said Macon County Derek Roland. “This gives us something that we didn’t know we could have and gives us something we need to start conversations with service providers on how to address connectivity and coverage issues in Macon County.”
Roland said the next step is to take the information developed by Muncey and Hall and reach out to individual communities to get a more accurate and better view of what is actually covered and who can actually receive service and what type of service that is.