BAY MINETTE — County officials hope to use a survey now being conducted to improve internet access to growing areas of the county that do not have sufficient service.The Baldwin County …
BAY MINETTE — County officials hope to use a survey now being conducted to improve internet access to growing areas of the county that do not have sufficient service.
The Baldwin County Commission is asking residents to complete the survey about their experience with the coverage and quality of broadband services in the county.
Anyone wanting to take part in the survey can go to https://arcg.is/0Wiumz.
The county conducted a survey about a year ago asking residents about their internet providers and how satisfied they were with services, Brian Peacock, Baldwin County Communications and Information Systems director, said. The new survey includes a speed test to show the actual level of service in different areas of the county.
"Often, what we found with maps from the state or federal level is that the accuracy of those depend on the input they receive from vendors," Peacock said. "So, if you have a provider that can only offer service within 250 feet of their main backbone, well, the service may be running in front of your house, but if you live too far away from that service, to receive those services, then you're not actually going to benefit from them being in your location."
Peacock said that as more residents work from home or depend more on internet access for communications, the service becomes more important.
"It's really become a utility, with the amount of work from home that we're seeing, and I don't think that's going to go away," Peacock said. "I've seen some statistics on the fact that now when people are looking for a job, that's part of what they're looking for, can they work from home? What is that flex schedule available from those businesses? I don't see it going away."
Peacock said that while some areas of the county have several providers offering high-speed internet, other regions, particularly in rural areas, have limited access. He said many of those rural areas are growing and the demand is increasing.
"The problem is the need is becoming greater, while the access to high speed is stagnant," he said. "That's what we're after. We're looking for those locations and what we're hoping to achieve by this survey is that we'll be able to pinpoint areas where we have zero service available or it's not sustainable enough to do that work from home."
He said the information from the survey will be given to the commission to be used to develop plans for service and how money from grants or other sources can be used to improve access.
Commission Chairman Jeb Ball said at a recent South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce meeting that money from sources such as the American Rescue Plan Act could be used to improve access if the county can show where the services are needed.
"We can't provide internet services, but we can partner with internet providers, developers and things like that to make internet more feasible," Ball said.
He said some areas of the county still have only DSL service and about 1% still depend on dial-up services.
The survey is hosted by GIS consultants Sain Associates and is provided as a service through Baldwin County's participation in the Investing in Alabama Counties program. The IAC program was established by the Association of County Commissions of Alabama.
Anyone wanting more information about the Baldwin County Public Broadband Survey can contact the Baldwin County CIS Department at (251) 937-0343.