At its regular monthly meeting Thursday morning, the Anson Economic Development Corporation heard a presentation on the N.C. Broadband project. Donna Sullivan, Ph.D., technical assistance director for the project, gave the presentation.
The Anson County Broadband Project is administered through the N.C. Department of Commerce, and funded by N.C. Broadband. Basically, it is an assessment of Anson County’s broadband needs, Sullivan said.
“Engineering consultants will do the work, with input from county leaders,” Sullivan said. Those leaders include local government, economic development staff, schools, Internet service providers, and other businesses and citizens.
Sullivan briefed the Anson County Board of Commissioners on the project at their December meeting, and they signed off on it. Work is expected to begin in February, with a kickoff meeting planned for Feb. 6.
County residents can enter their address on e-ncbroadband.org, and find out whether or not broadband service is available to them, Sullivan said. Anson County currently falls between 5 and 9.9 percent of its population unable to access even basic-level broadband. According to N.C. Broadband, a total of 704 households within the county cannot access basic broadband, and 738 households cannot access recommended Internet speeds.
The idea behind the project is to increase the number of people using broadband Internet. “It is particularly important to school-aged children,” Sullivan said, “because the General Assembly passed a bill last session that requires a transition to digital textbooks by 2017.”
N.C. Broadband engineers will be in the area starting the first week in February to assess the need for expanded broadband in the county. “We want to know who in the community cannot get access and who wants it,” Sullivan said.
Surveys will be available in convenience stores and other retail outlets, she added.
South Piedmont Community College President Dr. Stan Sidor asked if it would be possible to customize the surveys for some organizations, like the college. “The more online courses we provide,” he said, “the fewer seats we have filled in the classroom. Our question is, where are all these students sitting?”
Sullivan said she would work with Sidor to customize the survey to fit his needs.
“If we’re going to attract new business to Anson County, we’ve got to have the broadband availability,” Dr. Don Altieri, former SPCC president, said. Realtor Carroll Anderson added that it’s important not only for attracting businesses, but also for those seeking a new home within the county.
In other business at the AEDC’s January meeting, Realtor Don Scarborough expressed his frustration with a recent decision by the county commissioners to deny a solar farm in Wadesboro. “This is really concerning to me,” he said. “It makes no sense to me that they would turn down something like this, especially when it’s green energy.”
He also said he didn’t agree with county planner Josie Lodder’s statement that no one wanted to see a solar farm when they drove into Anson County on U.S. 74. Others in the room agreed with Scarborough, and County Manager Lawrence Gatewood said he would relay their concerns to the commissioners at their next meeting.
Gatewood also gave the AEDC an update on the county’s upcoming animal shelter (see related story, Page 1A), the new emergency services center and the move of the Board of Elections office.
Sidor spoke about an upcoming Anson County Economic Development Summit. He said he will work with Dr. Altieri and Anson County Schools Superintendent Michael Freeman to formulate an agenda for the summit, which is tentatively planned for the week of Feb. 10.
The AEDC will next meet on Feb. 20 at 7:30 a.m. in the Chamber of Commerce board room, 107-A E. Wade St., Wadesboro.