A survey on internet service in Chowan County shows a need for competition, the Chowan County Board of Commissioners heard at a recent meeting.

More than half of those who responded to a recent survey on internet service in Chowan County described themselves as “not satisfied at all” with their current service.

Edenton-Chowan Partnership Executive Director Liza Layton presented a report to the board July 12 on the survey results.

The issue of rural broadband needs also came up during Gov. Roy Cooper’s visit to Gatesville on Thursday. While he was there to see a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Gates County Health Department, Gates Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Althea Riddick used the opportunity to press the importance of high-speed internet in rural areas.

“We are under-served,” Riddick said in her remarks during Cooper’s visit.

She said high-speed internet is important to people, just like electricity and phone service.

“Broadband is a utility,” Riddick said.

Cooper said he agrees, and mentioned his budget request seeks $1.2 billion to expand broadband into all areas of the state.

The Edenton-Chowan Partnership established a broadband committee in March 2020. A rough draft of the survey was completed last fall and was distributed to the committee in May. Survey results were collected in May and June.

The 20-question survey was sent to all utility addresses in Edenton and the county, Layton explained. It was also shared through social media, websites and the Chowan Herald, she said.

Of the 6,707 surveys sent, 1,216 were returned, which is a return rate of 18 percent.

Commissioner Alex Kehayes asked what is generally considered a good return rate for a survey, and Layton said 17-20 percent is considered good.

The results showed 89 percent of respondents had internet service and only 11 percent did not.

But 51 percent — slightly more than half of all respondents — reported being “not satisfied at all” with their current service. Only 2.4 percent described themselves as “extremely satisfied” with their current service.

Internet service was described as an essential service by 94 percent of survey respondents.

Layton told the board the partnership will use the survey data to prepare a request for proposals. The RFP will seek to bring additional internet service providers into the county.