Some things, everyone can agree on.
Take, for example, the recent article on internet service in Cumberland County. A local resident voiced her frustration at trying to access fast, reliable internet service at her new home. To make her situation more frustrating, she had thought service would be available. The provider had gone so far as to schedule installation. Then, right before moving day, she learned she couldn't get the service. She was too far away from the service lines.
The Chronicle's Facebook post sharing the story was soon filled with other local residents sharing their frustrations. They had service, but it was slow and unreliable. They want service but the provider wouldn't hook them up.
I have my own anecdote.
When I found my home, 10 years ago this summer, I called my preferred provider. After some back and forth, they gave me the bad news. I was 700 feet from the existing service line. They would only go 350 feet, they said. I was out of luck.
I called just about every year since, frustrated by ever-increasing bills from the sole provider available and lackluster service that was nowhere near what I was paying for, only to find I was still 700 feet from the existing service line.
In 10 years, that provider has not extended service on my street.
Before you think I'm living on the outskirts of the county, I'm not. I live in the middle of Lake Tansi Village. Every street around me has two service options — the one I have, and the one I'd like to have.
Yet, the counties surrounding us have better options. My mother, living in the outskirts of Fentress County, enjoys fiber-optic service through her telephone cooperative. Beldsoe County Telephone Cooperative also has fiber service available to about 11,000 people.
Home internet service is no longer the luxury service it was back in the early 2000s. While we may lament the "always connected" society in which we live, there's no denying how important the internet has become to work, education and entertainment. An internet connection puts the world at our fingers. For many people, it's also the source of their income, with more and more workers telecommuting at least some of the time.
Complicating matters is the fact internet availability is often reported according to ZIP codes or census blocks. So if one person in that block gets the service, everyone is considered served.
On behalf of the rest of us living 700 feet too far away, I beg to differ.
Instead of a luxury service, internet service has become more of a necessity. And as Cumberland County continues to recruit new residents and new businesses, the need for better service will only grow. The question is, will the providers listen and respond to their customers?
Cumberland County Mayor Allen Foster is working with providers to improve internet accessibility in our county. Over the weekend, he launched a survey asking residents to test their internet service speed and share their results. From the lucky folks hooked up to speedy fast internet, to the folks limping along at 4 mbps (that would be me), to the folks with satellite service hoping they don't exceed their data allowance, he's looking for data on what's actually available and what's actually being provided.
He needs data, and you're the only people who can get it for him. Here's the link.
The first step to confronting a problem is recognizing exactly what the problem is. Share your speed tests so that we can get a better picture of the internet accessibility issues here in our community.
Beyond that, contact your legislators and encourage them to support programs that focus on bringing better internet service to rural areas; contact providers and let them know you expect them to serve their rural customers, too; and share how you use your internet service to improve your daily lives, complete your work, or expand your educational opportunities.