The Nash County Board of Commissioners wants help from local lawmakers in extending high-speed internet service to under-served rural areas. The topic was the longest discussed at Thursday night’s annual Nash County Legislative Dinner. Each year, commissioners meet with the local legislative delegation to present their legislation priorities. The board is looking into several options to bring broadband to areas of the county without the much-valued service, like Middlesex and surrounding areas.
Board Chairman Robbie Davis said high-speed internet is needed by schools, but it’s now also a matter of a growing number of residents needing broadband to work from home. Davis said the board is loosing credibility because it hasn’t accomplished anything to expand service. The N.C. General Assembly passed a local bill to support internet growth four years ago but language in the bill has county officials concerned. The bill says money spent on broadband expansion has to meet an economic development requirement.
N.C. Rep. Jeff Collins, R-Nash, said he would look at removing the language from the existing bill, but he wasn’t for funneling state money into a local project.
“I didn’t go to Raleigh to pull money from other counties into Nash,” Collins said. The county should continue to request funding in case any statewide money becomes available, said N.C. Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash.
“If any money is moving for broadband, we need to make sure Nash is getting its share,” Bryant said.
Collins — a self-proclaimed “budget waste warrior” — said he isn’t in office to create state funds to be spent in Nash County. N.C. Sen.
Rick Horner, R-Wilson, questioned how it would be possible to get broadband to every nook and cranny in the county.
“You going to run it to every trailer and mud hole in the whole county?” Horner asked. Bryant said electricity is run to every home in the county, despite what naysayers once said about it being an impossibility. Davis said county staff would get with Collins to have the current bill revised.
After the meeting, Collins told Davis he goes to bat for Nash County all the time but doesn’t believe in pork barrel spending. Other goals the board presented legislators included supporting state funding for local industrial site development; providing funding or allowing the state to improve private roads open to the public but not state maintained; and supporting funding to convert U.S.
64 into Interstate 87 from Raleigh to Norfolk through Nash County. The board also presented a list of statewide goals complied by the state county commissioners association including eliminating second primary elections; allowing sales tax redistribution flexibility beyond the current limited uses; and supporting legislation that promotes opioid prevention initiatives.
Commissioner Mary Wells spelled out the commissioners’ relationship with the legislators at the end of the meeting.
“We’ll support you as long as you support us,” Wells said.
An Aberdeen suburb is set for superfast broadband thanks to a campaign by the community. Charleston is due to have fibre optic internet by the end of this month, BT has announced. Cove and Altens Community Council has been vocal in calling for the network upgrade and has welcomed the news.
A petition by the group received 250 signatures and it has been working with Cove, Kincorth and Nigg councillor Stephen Flynn to secure the service. Community council member Tekena Fubara said: “Cllr Flynn has been doing a great job in keeping communication going with BT and reminding them of the need to keep its earliest target to provide Charleston with superfast broadband by the end of March.
“Although this has been a long, drawn-out event and should have been implemented long before, it is comforting to know that progress is being made.”
Cllr Flynn also conducted his own survey of residents which showed 98% of the 59 people who took part wanted the service to be made available. Cllr Flynn said: “Securing fibre broadband upgrades for the Charleston development has been one of my key aims since becoming a local councillor and to hear that everything remains on track is fantastic news.
“Obviously, we are still very much in the hands of BT but they have twice now given me a firm commitment that this upgrade will take place in March and I certainly hope that this will be the case.
“Local residents have been crying out for improved broadband speeds and I know they are eagerly awaiting this work taking place.”
A BT spokesman said: “I have checked with the local planner and he advises that the cabinet is still very much in their programme to upgrade by the end of quarter 4 (March), but that he is not able to provide a specific date and this is always subject to change if they hit any issues along the way.
“Our website will be updated when the work is completed and service providers will generally let their customers know when they are ready to take orders.”