Overlay information from internet service providers on a map and it would appear that almost all Smyth County residents have access to the internet. County officials, however, want to get a more realistic picture of service access. To achieve that picture, individuals are being urged to help by completing a simple survey.

The survey seeks information from all citizens and businesses regarding broadband usage, current service, and needs. Information gathered from the survey will be used to create the county’s strategic broadband plan.

Chuck Kirby, vice president of broadband for the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), said last month at a community broadband forum that the county must dig deeper to determine the types of needs that exist in Smyth County. He urged people to complete the survey saying, it is “a chance to have your voice heard.” He called the survey data the foundation of the county’s needs assessment, which will be used in part to seek grants and form partnerships to improve broadband access.

The CIT is a nonprofit corporation that focuses on innovation and entrepreneurship and is assisting Smyth County with its community survey on broadband.

The survey, which will be live through Feb. 12, is available online at https://www.commonwealthconnect.virginia.gov/form/locality-survey.

While the online version is preferred, paper copies are available at a number of locations throughout the county, including:

the Smyth County Administrator’s Office, 121 Bagley Circle Suite 100, Marion;

Laurel Springs Farm Store Front, 118 E. Main Street, Marion;

The Farmhouse Market, 5244 Sugar Grove Hwy, Sugar Grove;

Valley Country Store, 1955 BF Buchanan Hwy, Saltville; and

Papa’s Café 826 E. Lee Hwy, Chilhowie.

Kirby promised that every comment left on the surveys would be read.

The survey is limited to one per household.

Kirby told the January gathering that he sees the expansion of broadband as important now as rural electrification once was. He urged people to put their passion into making sure their friends and neighbors know about the survey and complete it.

At that meeting, individuals from Rich Valley to Wassum Valley to Sugar Grove spoke of their non-existent or limited internet access. They told of how that reality impacts medical, educational, work and recreation needs. Officials also believe it is factor in population outflow, economic development and property values.

The survey and community forum were among requirements for the county to be awarded an initial $15,000 broadband planning grant and future grants from Virginia’s Department of Housing and Community Development to expand broadband service.

The survey seeks information from citizens and businesses regarding broadband usage, current service, and needs. Information gathered from the survey will be used to create the county’s strategic broadband plan.

Anyone with questions about Smyth County’s survey may call Kendra at the County Administrator’s Office at 276-783-3298.

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