Meeting will discuss digital service shortfalls

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

More than half of Dubois County residents who took a digital service survey last year said they were not satisfied with their home internet service.

Getting residents to a level of satisfaction is one of the reasons a digital inclusion survey was conducted.

The county’s survey results will be discussed at a public meeting being held by Dubois Strong from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Monday in the theater of Vincennes University Jasper’s Center for Technology, Innovation and Manufacturing building. Due to COVID-19, the meeting is limited to the first 50 who RSVP. To do so, call 812-482-9650 or email success@duboisstrong.com

After a presentation of the data, those in attendance will be able to share what they see as the digital needs in the county.

“What we want to do is talk to the community members who come to get an idea of what their priorities are,” said Ed Cole, president of Dubois Strong. “This will help us verify if the data is correct, or if we are off base.”

Almost 57% of Dubois County who took the survey (56.7%) said they were either unsatisfied or somewhat unsatisfied with their home internet service over the past year. Those taking the survey were asked if they agree or strongly agree with reasons listed; in that, people agreed or strongly agreed that the service was too slow (96.3%), unreliable (92.8%), did not satisfy online needs half of the time (88.7%), and too expensive (67.7%).

The Regional Opportunity Initiatives and Purdue Center for Regional Development have been working together to develop a comprehensive regional digital inclusion plan that includes the counties in the Uplands region: Dubois, Brown, Crawford, Daviess, Greene, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Orange, Owen and Washington counties. Each county has a local team who has also been taking part in the work. The survey was made available online to county residents last fall through Dubois Strong. Information on the surveys was compiled by the Purdue Center for Regional Development into the State of Digital Inclusion.

“Your advisory teams are going over the data and will do a template that will have goals for your area, priorities that are specific to your county,” said Lisa Abbott, Regional Opportunity Initiatives’ vice president of economic and community development.

That information will be forwarded to Purdue Center for Regional Development. The center will work with an advisory team, which will have regional members and members from each county, to compile a report to show what is needed in the region and each county. The report will be used for future plans to eradicate the problems.

“The plan is to be able to get grants both regionally,” Cole said, “and potentially on the county level.”

According to the survey results for Dubois County, 76.9% of residents have internet service at home, which means that 23.1% do not. Of those who said they do not have access, the highest ranking reasons for not having it were that the available service was too expensive (81.6%), service was not available (80.2%), available service was not reliable (73.4%) and available service was too slow (73.3%).

For those who did have home service, 25.5% have fixed wireless, 16.5% have satellite, 16.4% have DSL, 14.5% have fiber, 11.2% have cable and 7.3% have cellular data; the remaining 8.5% either had dial-up or weren’t sure.

According to the county’s digital inclusion survey document, 20.5% of the residents do not have access to at least 25/3 mbps, which means having the ability to download 25 megabits per second and upload 3 megabits per second. The survey found that 23.9% do not have access to at least 100/20 mbps. This information comes from the Federal Communications Commission.

A breakdown is also given of those who have access based on the kind of technology. For those who have access to at least 25/3 mbps, 73.6% can access that through DSL, 77.5% through fixed wireless, 59.9% through cable and 66.5% through fiber. For those who have access to 100/20 mbps, 70.4% can access through DSL, 74.1% through fixed wireless, 59.9% through cable and 66.5% through fiber.

The State Legislature has been discussing changing its definition of an area not being served as one that does not have at least 25/3 mbps, Abbott said.

“It’s coming up in the discussion is because we’ve had this pandemic,” she said. “People went home from work and people went home from school. If you’re trying to zoom for a work thing and your kids trying to zoom for school thing, and you don’t have better than 25/3, it’s not going to happen. There’s just not enough bandwidth to cover all the needs that we’ve experienced to this year.”

Almost a third of those surveyed (32%) said they paid between $50 and $74.99 per month for internet service at home; this is for internet only, not bundles. Of the rest, 21.4% paid less than $20, 20.1% paid between $35 and $49.99, 17.7% paid $20 to $34.99 and 8.8% paid $75 or more per month.

Residents shared information on what entities they interacted with online at least once a week. In that, between 40% and 50% of the interaction was with local businesses, 40% was with non-local businesses, just over 30% was with local government and more than 20% was with nonprofits.

A little more than a third of those surveyed (37.6%) do not own as a desktop device. Of those who do, 24.1% said that it performs well, 20.1% said that it performs poorly and 18.2% said that its performance is sufficient. For laptops, 31.8% said their laptops work well, 29.4% said theirs are sufficient and 28.9% said theirs perform poorly; 9.9% said they do not own a laptop.

The entire State of Digital Inclusion report can be found online at https://duboisstrong.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Dubois-Digital-Inclusion.pdf.




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