Rural residents want cable, Internet service

Published 8:13 am Wednesday, August 5, 2009

ISLE OF WIGHT—Nearly 1,000 Isle of Wight County residents recently responded to a survey about the quality of Charter Communications cable service in the county. There were concerns about service, picture quality and prices. But for residents in the county’s rural areas, there is a more pressing concern.

“We can’t get it,” said Phillip Bradshaw, who represents the Carrsville District on the county’s Board of Supervisors. “That’s been one of our primary concerns.” He said that he has tried for years to get Charter to expand and offer Internet and cable services in his district, but the company refuses because the area isn’t populated enough.

Charter requires that an area have a density of at least 30 rooftops per square mile in order to offer service, which leaves large swaths of the county, especially southern and western areas, without access.

“I want to be able to see everyone have Internet access,” Bradshaw said. He said that residents in his district are unable to get high-speed Internet access unless they pay for costly satellite Internet access or wireless broadband cards.

“Everybody can’t afford that,” Bradshaw said. He said it disadvantages elderly residents on fixed incomes and families with children who need Internet access for school assignments.

County representatives have visited Wilson, N.C. That city installed its own fiber-optic network to provide cable and high-speed Internet to its residents. The county is also looking at available grants and loans to help provide high-speed Internet access to rural residents.

“We’re looking at the alternatives,” Bradshaw said. “I’ve got high expectations.”

The county is negotiating with Charter because the current franchise agreement is set to expire in August 2010. Bradshaw said that Charter is the only provider in the area and he is unaware of any other providers expressing interest in expanding into Isle of Wight.

“Access is always a concern in the rural areas,” said Southampton County Administrator Michael Johnson. However, he said that he doesn’t frequently receive complaints from the county’s rural residents who are unable to receive the services.

Charter Communications provides services to thousands of homes and businesses in Isle of Wight and Southampton counties as well as the cities of Franklin and Suffolk.