Broadband internet unavailable to many in Eastern NC

JACKSONVILLE, NC (WITN) - A navy reservist who moved back to the East is frustrated with the lack of broadband internet available for his family. Jason Dart said, "I'm a Navy reservist. I have to have some connectivity to do that part of my job. The whole world is in 2019, and we're back here in, I don't know, it feels like 1997."

When Jason Dart and his family moved to Jacksonville in 2017, he said the only internet provider that services the street of his new home, told him they couldn't connect to their broadband lines.

Dart said, "It was just baffling. If I go 50 feet to my left as I'm leaving my house, my neighbor has excellent broadband, and then apparently there is just a line where, I think they've called it line exhaustion"

He added, providers told him the weathering of old broadband lines is the reason why they connect to fewer households over time. Meanwhile, Dart's wife has adapted to homeschooling their 2 sons with satellite dish internet.

"It really gets difficult because sometimes it just will not load. the place it really shows up is with research. This past year, we're working with current events, and so we had to go elsewhere to download the articles, to find stuff, to read stuff," said Janette Dart.

Michael Lazarra, North Carolina League of Municipalities President said, "Broadband is like electricity. It's like water. Everybody needs broadband access."

Jacksonville Mayor Pro Tem and State League of Municipalities President Michael Lazarra took this issue to Washington D-C in February, advocating for funding that would support municipalities in partnering with internet providers to ensure more widespread access. The way providers operate now, leaders say, is part of the problem.

"What we hear from the telecom companies is if it's not profitable for them to reach a certain area, then they're just not able to go there," said Lazarra.

Officials say internet access has become essential for accessing educational resources, medical accounts, and financial information... and people without broadband could be left behind.

Jason Dart said, "You can't do normal life generally speaking in America anymore without being able to get on broadband.

A bill will be proposed to the General assembly in this session that, if passed, would allow state municipalities to partner with broadband providers in efforts to ensure everyone has broadband access.