Agencies gauging e-connectivity needs

Mary Ann Kearns - [email protected]
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The Maysville Mason County Industrial Development Authority and the Maysville Mason County Area Chamber of Commerce are teaming up to collect data on the area’s wants and needs for connecting to the world electronically.

“In today’s connected world, quality broadband access and e-connectivity are synonymous to clean water access 70 years ago,” Owen McNeill, economic development director for MMCIDA said.

Without access to comparable speeds, a community will find itself being passed over by industry and perspective residents, McNeill said. That realization prompted the partnership of McNeill’s office and the Chamber’s Work Ready team to examine broadband access, a process that has been underway for some time now, he said.

“Yesterday (Tuesday), we released a community survey to provide quantitative and qualitative data on the area’s broadband and internet usage and satisfaction,” McNeill said.

McNeill, who accepted the position at MMCIDA this spring, said when he came on board, every contiguous county to Mason County had access to faster speeds for broadband. That was a change from 15 years ago, when Mason County was a regional leader.

“Without adequate broadband capacity and speeds, our area is at a disadvantage in attracting and retaining workers and industry,” McNeill said. “In addition, study after study shows that broadband is imperative for a healthy and vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem. These are the small technology driven businesses that grow to become integral parts of regional economies.”

The survey will provide vital information to current and prospective broadband service providers on the demand and satisfaction within current service in the area, he said.

“We initiated the process by inviting each current provider in for discussions on their services and future investments,” McNeill explained. “The committee met with leadership from Limestone Cable, AT&T, Windstream and others to investigate what investments were planned as well as their predicted upgrades in speed and reliability.”

From those discussions, the committee developed a strategy to ‘make a business case’ for additional and/or continued investment, McNeill said.

For the Work Ready designation, for communities of 50,000 or less, 60 percent of the population must have access to speeds of 25mb or more, McNeill said.

”While the committee feels we will meet that criteria, surrounding counties have access to 100Mb plus,” he pointed out. “In today’s electronic age, broadband is as essential as other utilities such as water, sewer and electricity. Without adequate capacity, we are at an economic disadvantage with development stymied and available workforce looking at other locations to reside.“

The MMCIDA/Chamber Work Ready E-Connectivity Survey will provide verifiable data to show the demand in the area, McNeill said. The data from the survey will be available to all current providers as well as prospective providers looking to enter the Maysville market. The data will show where users live, their current speeds, their needs as well as their current usage.

“By illustrating the demand and how Maysville/Mason County residents want to utilize the internet, we are hoping to make the ‘business case’ for additional investment in the area,” McNeill said.

In concert with other initiatives such as providing coordinates of taller structures in the area and other infrastructure that can be used to form and/or bolster networks, McNeill hopes the program will ultimately lead to the investments needed to bring the area ‘up to speed.’

“Just like with other utilities, upgrades in e-connectivity take significant investment and our team is looking to assist however possible to ensure our area has the adequate broadband capacity to not only survive but thrive in today’s connected world,” McNeill said. “This survey is simply a way to capture demand data with ambitions to attract additional investment and in no way is an indictment of current providers. Ultimately, as opposed to waiting for increased speeds to reach our area, we are taking a more proactive approach with this survey and other initiatives that should pay off in leveling out the broadband field for our region.“

Anyone interested in taking the E-connectivity survey can access it online at: https://conta.cc/2MrllPZ

The link is also available on The Ledger Indpendent’s Facebook page.

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Mary Ann Kearns

[email protected]