GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — With families learning and working from home, the COVID-19 pandemic is emphasizing the need for reliable internet in rural areas.
It’s an issue at the forefront of voters’ minds as the 2020 election approaches, especially when it comes to North Carolina’s senate race.
Lindsey Proctor has an unthinkable problem in the 21st century.
“We actually do not have access to high-speed internet at all,” said Proctor.
Proctor lives in a rural area of Pitt County.
With two kids learning virtually, and a husband working from home, 2020 has been challenging.
“The only internet we have to use is a US Cellular cell phone, so I can tether my phone to their computers,” said Proctor.
She says she has tried to get answers about why her town wasn’t getting service.
“We’ve asked them what do we need to do to see about getting lines ran to have high-speed internet, and they pretty much basically just told us we would be lucky if we ever got it,” said Proctor.
“A lot of providers won’t go into remote or rural areas if they can’t see a return on their investment,” said Jeff Sural, the Broadband Infrastructure Office Director. “That means there are typically only one or two service providers in that area.”
Less provider options mean higher prices.
“That doesn’t provide the competition that drives affordability and innovation,” said Sural.
Another roadblock to access? Developing the infrastructure. Companies don’t want to spend the money to build towers or run cables.
“That’s why we have things like grant programs and loan programs that we try to encourage them to take advantage of,” said Sural.
Carteret County leaders have a digital inclusion plan in the works. They hope to expand coverage to help rural families and bring more remote workers to the county. A plan like that can’t come soon enough for people like Proctor.
“The whole entire world is very technology drive, so it kind of feels like your stuck in the stone-age a little bit,” he added.
Tillis says he is actively working to bring internet to underserved areas of North Carolina.
Cunningham says the pandemic has emphasized the fact that all areas of the state need fast reliable internet.