Early North Carolina broadband survey data shows mediocre access

By Johnny Kampis

Raleigh, NC – North Carolinians can now view results from an ongoing survey designed to show gaps in coverage in the state, which so far indicates a lack of access to broadband.

male remote worker inserting usb stick into port
Photo by Anete Lusina

The North Carolina Broadband Survey is gauging the availability of wireline and wireless internet, as well as speeds, across the state using self-reported responses. As of Friday, Jan. 29, just more than 40,000 residents and business owners have responded, with about 5% of them reporting having no internet at home. 

Thomas Parrish, acting secretary of the N.C. Department of Information Technology, said in a news release that he hopes launching the dashboard will help encourage others to participate in the survey. 

“The survey is ongoing, and as we continue to navigate the pandemic and respond to the more critical need for high-speed internet service, it is more important than ever to help get a more accurate picture of broadband in North Carolina,” he said.

The survey can be taken either online or by phone by texting “internet” to 919-750-0553. It is available in both English and Spanish.

Jeff Surai, director of the NCDIT’s Broadband Infrastructure Office, said the department is urging everyone to take the survey – whether or not they have good broadband service – so the state can more accurately map the high-speed internet landscape. Data from the survey will better enable the state to determine areas most in need of grants from the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology program. That includes funds from pandemic relief, which, as Carolina Journal previously reported, required some budgeting switcheroo in an agreement between Gov. Roy Cooper and the North Carolina Legislature. 

“Broadband availability is a major issue, and this data will help us provide much-needed context to the stories we hear every day from residents struggling to work, learn and interact online,” he said. “With better context, we can advocate more effectively for our unserved and underserved communities in desperate need for expanded availability and more affordable access to high-speed internet service.”

The survey has found mediocre results for broadband access in North Carolina. The median internet download speed is 16 Megabits per second while the median upload speed is 3 Mbps. The Federal Communications Commission considers broadband as download speeds of 25 Mbps and upload speeds of 3 Mbps. Only 39% of respondents say they have adequate broadband speeds.

Respondents also say they pay a lot for internet, as the selection of “over $125” was the most commonly chosen option at 18%. But that could include respondents mistakenly including bundled services with both cable and internet for their answer, although the question asks the price for internet only.