Is better Internet possible?

Published 1:04 am Wednesday, November 14, 2018

County resident urges commission to seek broadband help

June Owens voiced her concerns about local Internet service to the Covington County Commission’s Tuesday, and said that the community needs to come together to establish a better service.

She said that since she has moved back to the county, she cannot work at home because of the lack of service.

“I don’t want to put anyone down whenever I say this, but we are living in a digital desert here,” Owens said. “I can’t get Internet where I live, and I have been using my Verizon hotspot, which I used up in ten days. I have been working in Opelika and recently moved back to the Red Level area. Where I live, I have begged Centurylink to give me Internet service, and I would even take phone service if given the chance, but they continue to tell me that coverage is not available in that area.”

Owens said that there are a lot of options for broadband Internet service, including Troy Cable.

“There are several options, and I do believe that Troy Cable does what they say they are going to do with the funds that they receive,” Owens said. “I have a very good relationship with them and I would love to see them in this area.”

Owens said that there will be additional federal funding for rural broadband service in the near future, and she has spoken with Rep. Martha Roby about the funds.

“Martha Roby is in the same situation,” Owens said. “At her house in Montgomery, she is right next to an AT&T fiber cable and they will not serve her. I talked with her and she said that they are talking about additional funding, but they have not yet written the specifications or how it is to be used.”

Owens said that the time is now to come together and put pressure on Centurylink.

“It is now time for us as citizens to put pressure on Centurylink to do what they say they are going to do,” Owens said. “Or we need to get another provider. I’m not opposed to letting Centurylink lay fiber cables, but I don’t they will do it unless their hand is forced.”

Owens was working for the City of Opelika when they  started their a municipal-owned fiber network.

“The problem that happened to Opelika is that they could never expand outside of the city limits,” Owens said. “They failed both times that they tried to do it.”

Commission Chairman Greg White said that he has noticed a need for a new Internet provider.

“We have a lot of disgruntled citizens,” White said. “I think we need to move forward with discussions about different options and have a look at cost vs. benefits.”

Owens said that having a strong Internet provider could increase economic development.

“If you have an industry that wants to come to your city, they are going to have a checklist,” Owens said. “And broadband connection is on that list.”

The commission also:

• recognized Pleasant Home’s Volleyball team for winning the state championship.

• appointed Joe Rickman to the Southeast Alabama Planning and Development Commission.

• retroactively approved out-of-state travel by the sheriff’s department for hurricane relief.

• approved a one-time pay supplement for county employees.

• approved overtime pay for the South Alabama Air Show.