Study to Address Internet Access, Needs
by Tom Smith
FLORENCE — The need for high-speed or broadband internet in rural Lauderdale County has been on the mind of Commissioner Brad Holmes from the day he campaigned for office.
“I had people telling me how their children had to be taken to a fast-food restaurant where they could connect with the internet to do their homework,” Holmes said. “We are still having these issues in the county. With the need for technology and the advancements we have made, internet should be something that is available for everyone.”
However, there are areas of Lauderdale County where high-speed internet access is “sketchy” at best, Holmes said.
He said there is only “28 percent” of the county with reliable internet access.
“Most of that is concentrated in the city of Florence, then along Alabama 20 west toward Central Heights, and north on Alabama 157 and Alabama 17 toward the Zip City area,” he said.
“AT&T has been great for the area where it has helped put in fixed wireless internet that covers a three- to five-mile radius, but there are some very high populated areas where the internet is less than adequate.”
Holmes said Rogersville, the county’s second largest municipality, is a perfect example.
“It’s terrible,” Rogersville Police Chief Terry Holden said of internet service. “It may be a little faster than the old dial-up, but not a lot. I was doing wreck reports in my office the other day and I was having to wait and wait and wait on the internet. I probably could have written them out and mailed them just as fast.”
Holden said most people in the Rogersville area don't have internet access at all.
The Lauderdale County Commission has entered into a contract with Kentucky-based Connected Nation to see what can be done to get better internet service in rural areas.
The commission is paying the company $75,000 to review what service the county has, and to analyze the needs.
“If this county is going to move forward, we have to have high-speed internet,” said Commissioner Roger Garner. “With technology advancing so much, you would think everyone would have access to high-speed internet. We have people who don’t have access to internet, period. That has to change.”
Holmes said Connected Nation specializes in working with rural areas to secure high-speed or broadband internet.
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