A recent survey found that half of its respondents aren’t satisfied with their internet service, finding it too slow or unreliable, according to data released this week by the county’s Broadband Task Force.
The newly-named Knox County Indiana Economic Development — formerly known as KCDC — in May partnered with Purdue University’s Center for Regional Development and embarked on a county-wide survey to gauge just how good — or bad — internet service is here.
They were able to collect just over 1,000 responses — a large-enough sample, officials have said — and among the key findings were that of the 90% who said they did have internet service, nearly half weren’t satisfied with it.
Their disappointment, the survey said, strongly correlated with the internet delivery method, i.e. satellite vs. fiberoptic or cable, with the former offering less reliability and speed.
Half of seniors and 44% of elementary-age children said they had either no home internet at all or unreliable service.
And about half of the speed tests conducted failed to meet the broadband threshold.
Early this year, Chris Pfaff, CEO of Knox County Indiana Economic Development, announced the reorganization of the countywide Broadband Task Force, one founded more than two years ago by his predecessor, Kent Utt.
Its members were charged with evaluating current broadband coverage throughout the county and developing solutions for a quicker build out of the infrastructure needed to extend services to underserved portions of Knox County, specifically rural areas to the north and south of Vincennes.
The first order of business was figuring out exactly how bad internet service is, hence the survey.
Now, task force’s chairman, Drew Garretson, said they will shift to finding solutions.
“We have the data, so we will engage with internet service providers in the areas where we have identified gaps,” he said. “We know where some of those households are with no access at all or with access that fails to meet minimum requirements for things like e-learning or Telehealth, and we’ll do what we can to see if we can work with providers to get better access to those homes.”
Some of the greatest gaps in coverage, Garretson said, were around the Monroe City area as well as portions of Bicknell and Oaktown.
Funding for upgrades, too, is a possibility, now that the county is armed with the appropriate data to show there are significant gaps in service.
The task force hopes to be able to leverage the results to secure funding from various pots of money, specifically the state’s Next Level Connections program, into which another $250 million is reportedly being pumped, or the Federal Communications Commission, which announced last year the launch of its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund designed to close the digital divide that often exists in rural America.
Knox County Indiana Economic Development, too, is in talks with three organizations that have received FCC funds, specifically Watch Communications and its efforts to possibly expand internet service in the southern portions of Knox County, as well as the Rural Telephone Corporation in Daviess County, which has an eye on Bicknell.
Pfaff, too, has said there is an outfit in Texas that secured a majority of the federal funding, and that the task force is working to “accelerate any plans” it may have for portions of southwestern Indiana.
“The task force will continue to stay in tact,” Garretson said. “We will continue to meet and work with the state on what funding opportunities are out there. We also want to identify internet service providers and begin those conversations, see if we can incentivize them. This data will go a long way in doing that.
“We will continue to look at creative and reliable solutions to bridge the gap,” he said.