Broadband survey reveals lack of high-speed Internet bad for local business

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Results of a recent Internet expansion survey have revealed that the lack of a high-speed connection has affected business’ abilities to expand and spread awareness of their services, resulting in higher business costs.

The survey was conducted by Osceola County Broadband Expansion Team from May through July to help understand the needs of business owners and residents when it comes to connecting online and to collect information that will help provide high-speed Internet at an affordable price to everyone.

The survey, which was located at the Osceola County website, offered 10 short and simple questions in which to reply. Participants were asked about the type of Internet service they utilize, if the service meets their needs, if it is affordable, if it is reliable and if it is as fast as desired. The survey also asked questions concerning costs and company bundle packages.

Residents without access to the Internet also were able to fill out the form manually at all five Osceola County libraries.

Osceola County Community Development Coordinator Dan Massy collected the data and said only about 240 people responded to the survey, which is extremely low considering there are about 9,200 occupied and about 4,400 vacant housing units in the county. Most of the responses were from residences, but a handful of businesses responded as well.

“This didn’t surprise me at all, but it’s good to hear,” said Massy about the results. “It gave us what we needed to know.”

Cell phone-based Internet service was used the most by individuals, at 28 percent. However, more than 30 percent said they have dial-up service or none at all. DSL service was the next widely used, followed by satellite and wireless Internet.

Most responders who do not subscribe to an Internet service said they do not because high-speed Internet is unavailable at their address. Currently, 15 providers are listed as serving the county, including Tucker Communications, Inc., Charter Communications, Inc., and Verizon Wireless. Many areas have at least three providers to choose from.

More than 78 percent of responders who do have Internet service at their address said the service does not meet their needs. Out of that percentage, three-quarters said the speed is too slow. Other issues include an unreliable connection, too high of a price and poor customer service. Of the 22 percent of responders who have the Internet, almost all said they are interested in alternative choices for service.

Furthermore, 42 percent of responders said services available are too expensive and about 37 percent said service at their address is too slow.

In terms of prices, on average individuals are willing to pay about $44 per month for high-speed Internet service and 36 percent of responders said they are interested in a bundle that includes Internet, television and a phone line. Many responsers cited data cap limits and overage charges.

Already, at least one provider is moving into the Marion area where AT&T left, Massy said. He is confident the survey results will help others throughout the county as well.

“It’ll help the residents because it’s another piece to give broadband providers, it will allow us to continue working with those providers and will give them the information they need,” he added. “I think by the end of this you’ll see more broadband in this county.”

To view the survey results, visit www.osceola-county.org.