Even though a lot of money has been invested/allocated for broadband expansion, especially recently, legislative hindrances are keeping that money from accomplishing its purpose in WNC.
1-County governments cannot establish their own broadband service. Our far west county commissioners know many Internet providers would rather invest elsewhere, but they don't have the freedom to find their own providers.
2-Charter has exclusive rights to certain areas because they won the bids to be THE Internet provider for those regions. It was meant as an incentive to go into less lucrative areas because the lack of competition would make it profitable. However, within these areas, they only provide Internet to the most populated, easily accessible areas. Because they are not fulfilling their part of the agreement, they could lose their exclusivity rights and be fined, but the fine is minimal. They already have the established customer base they desire, and what's left is not very enticing for other providers.
3-The way the grants work is not conducive for WNC to be awarded the grants. Yes, MANY grant applications for WNC have been submitted to GREAT. However, they are not yet approved (which is usually as far as WNC broadband grant requests go). GREAT uses a reverse bid which is based on providing the most service for the money (rather than who can provide service to the people for the least amount of money). Because of WNC's terrain and low population density, providing Internet service here has a higher per capita cost. Thus, we lose the bids.
1) Remove the handcuffs from the counties.
2) Hold Charter accountable and allow for competition.
3) Change the bidding system. Determine we ARE going to have reliable high-speed Internet in WNC.