Broadband installation increases in Gates

Published 4:08 pm Friday, September 1, 2023

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GATESVILLE – The highways and byways of Gates County are currently crowded as three companies are working to install broadband internet.

At the Aug. 16 meeting of the county commissioners, Erna Bright gave an update of the progress those companies are making. Bright serves as the chairman of the county’s Broadband Task Force.

As of that meeting, Bright said crews are installing fiber lines in and near Eure, Hobbsville, Corapeake, Drum Hill, Paige Riddick Road, Gates, Sunbury, and Gatesville.

“Folks in Drum Hill have high speed internet and they are loving it,” Bright said. “Those on Paige Riddick Road and the roads off of it have high speed internet.

“I got mine last week and I can attest to having five cell phones, and two laptops, it works great,” he added.

Bright noted there are some issues remaining to be resolved.

“I have seen in the last three days that Dominion Power is replacing poles that are used by two internet providers here in the county. North Carolina Farm Bureau got that ball rolling big time by getting in contact with the FCC (Federal Communications Commission),” Bright said.

He added that Fybe (formerly Roanoke Connect) has opted to bore their broadband lines in the ground in areas where those lines may be problematic for farmers attempting to harvest their crops.

“That will be a big help to the farmers along NC 37,” Bright stated.

He said that public hearings are forthcoming on future funding for broadband expansion, especially to those residents in extreme rural areas (aka the “last mile”). The dates of those pending public hearings have not yet been determined.

“The FCC and the state have identified 288 residences that are not served or underserved,” Bright said. “I feel that the county needs to step in and identify where those ‘last mile” residences are. The FCC needs to listen to us and not the [internet] providers.”

Another issue, Bright noted, was that the North Carolina Department of Information Technology has not yet finalized the height of the aerial broadband lines, especially in agricultural areas.

“They want to cap the height at 17 feet, but that’s not going to work,” Bright stressed in his report. “They have some outdated specifications from John Deere who now has pieces of farming equipment as tall as 18 to 20 feet. I think that 20 feet should be the minimum [height of fiber lines]. If a provider can’t meet that minimum, then they need to bury the cables.”

Bright said he has also observed internet providers who are working along a public right-of-way without the use of cones to properly mark their work zones and without flagmen to safely direct traffic.

“Somebody is going to get hurt if those areas are not marked and without flagmen,” Bright warned. “And they need to make sure of what utilities are already in the ground where they are boring. By statute, they need to have it located and properly marked. If not, if they cut it or break it they are liable for the repair.”

“We appreciate you being on the ground and pointing out things that are not right,” Commission Chair Dr. Althea Riddick told Bright. “He drove 120 miles in our county last week alone doing just that. And he has gone to Raleigh for meetings and we truly appreciate his efforts.”

Riddick added that Gates County residents can choose among three internet providers currently working in the county: Fybe, Spectrum, and BrightSpeed (formerly CenturyLink). Contact information for those three providers is available on the county’s website.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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