Early results from an unscientific survey by the Connect 4 Broadband Initiative indicate more Montezuma residents are working from home and there’s a greater demand for fast internet.
The survey, which was mailed to customers of Empire Electric Association and put on the Connect 4 website early in March, has received more than 1,500 responses so far, mostly from Montezuma County. At the annual meeting of the Montezuma Community Economic Development Association on Wednesday, the initiative’s spokeswoman Chelsea Jones said the results show a rise in the number of home-based businesses in the county and increased demand for faster internet speeds. Connect 4 will take into account the results of the survey when planning the next phase of their broadband project, which will involve a partnership with broadband companies Data Safe Services and FastTrack Communications.
“I think the response we’ve had from (the survey) and the feedback, as well as the growth we’ve had from MCEDA’s website ... has been really phenomenal,” Jones said.
According to online and mail-in survey results, 78 percent of respondents had internet at home, and the majority of those who didn’t said it was either too expensive or unnecessary. Only 36.8 percent said they were satisfied with their current speeds, and 81.7 percent said they’d be interested in faster service if it were available.
Connect 4 put out a similar survey in 2016, using more scientific methods, but Jones said this year’s broader survey showed different results in two major areas. Almost 25 percent of respondents said they operated a home-based business, a 3 percent increase from 2016. More than 50 percent of respondents said they used the internet to work from home, compared with 45 percent in last year’s survey. There was also a slight increase in the number of respondents who said they would support a sales tax increase to pay for higher internet speeds. More than 58 percent were in favor of the tax, with 47.1 against it, although the majority supported a 0.5 percent increase or less. In last year’s survey, respondents were more split down the middle, with about 50 percent for the tax and 50 percent against.
The survey also included a comment section, which Jones described as “colorful.”
“We got a very diverse response,” she said. “We got people screaming for it, saying they need broadband now, and other people saying they don’t need internet at all.”
She said the majority of people who said they didn’t need internet were older than 70, while those who were most vocal in their support of faster speeds lived mainly in unincorporated parts of the county.
Despite keeping the question on this year’s survey, Jones and county officials have said they don’t plan to push for a sales tax increase unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Like last year’s survey, this one included a section where people could say how they use the internet. The top use was for news and information, which 89.3 percent of respondents picked. Other uses included shopping (85.2 percent), research (84.5 percent), email (79.4 percent), education (71.1 percent), entertainment (67.9 percent), social media (64.5 percent), work from home (51.6 percent), video calls (50.8 percent), gaming (39 percent), smart appliances (30.9 percent), telecommuting (25.4 percent) and home security (21.7 percent).
The survey will remain open through the end of May. Empire Electric customers who complete it are entered into a drawing for a $200 gift card toward their electric bill.