Growing in population and commercial development, Lee County is still considered a primarily rural area with several locations either underserved or with no access to internet service at all. Areas in need of broadband service range from 50-year-old farmhouses in North Lee County to new residential developments in the South. With the county citizens’ complaints began to amplify due to the pandemic, Lee County propelled itself to apply for the designation.
“Lee County’s goal is to respond to our citizens’ request for reliable access to broadband services,” says Christi Dockery, County Manager. “Due to the number of citizens contacting Lee County staff and officials to report the lack of quality service, it is the goal of this designation to demonstrate to our citizens that their local government is working to meet their needs for broadband service.”
As a result of COVID-19, schools and businesses have operated virtually, highlighting the need for reliable internet service. With several citizens standing outside of businesses after hours in hopes to access WiFi, the lack of service in the area became even more prominent.
“In addition to the citizens that are working from home, many older retired individuals may need to teleconference with their doctor’s office staff,” says Dockery. “With so many businesses, including doctor’s offices, limited access and temporarily closing their door to the public, the need for seniors to be able to have flawless access to their doctors, family members, and friends through the internet is essential to maintain good health and reduce isolation.”
After completing the online application to demonstrate compliance with the adoption of both a Comprehensive Plan, inclusive of the promotion of deployment broadband services, and the Broadband Model Ordinance, Lee County has been certified as Broadband Ready. This allows the county to take a major step toward connectivity in an agriculture-based community.
Dockery says broadband infrastructure and reliable internet speeds are indispensable for virtual learning and telemedicine, as well as an increasingly aging population during a pandemic. It is essential in order for businesses to adapt to what seemingly is the new normal of online ordering and home delivery of services.
The designation showcases to federal and state representatives, citizens, and businesses that Lee County plans to support and bolster the expansion of broadband.
“This expansion of broadband infrastructure is a key component for Lee County officials’ priority to close the gap of internet disparity for underserved citizens throughout Lee County,” Dockery closes.
On April 13, Lee County was formally recognized as a Broadband Ready Community at the County Commission meeting. This makes Lee County one of the only two in Region 10 to achieve this recognition. With plans to remove any barriers between state and local governments as well as private service provides, Commissioner Luke Singletary hopes the designation clarifies to the county that the partnership with DCA is an important one. To read more about Lee County’s Broadband Ready presentation, click here.