By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
North Carolina is the 15th most connected state when it comes to internet service according to broadbandnow.com. But, individual counties in western North Carolina are not faring as well. The site states that while 98.5 percent of residents in Buncombe County have access to internet at 25 mbps (megabits per second) only 46.2 percent of residents in Swain County and 34 percent in Jackson County hit that mark.
Tribal members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will soon be able to receive internet service at their respective community clubs. Tribal Council passed Res. No. 273 (2018), submitted by Yellowhill Rep. Tom Wahnetah, during its regular session on Thursday, July 12 by a count of 11-0 (Rep. Boyd Owle absent) that will provide free internet at 11 EBCI community club buildings.
A dollar figure for the project was not part of the legislation, but Rep. Wahnetah said it will cost around $6,000 annually. “I’m hoping it will get more of our children involved in our community clubs. If they have WiFi and Gamebox there, they’ll play and they’ll come to the community clubs.”
The original legislation named the following community clubs which will receive free broadband internet: Yellowhill, Painttown, Big Cove, Wolftown, Birdtown, Snowbird, and Cherokee County. As part of a floor amendment, four more were added including: Rough Branch, Big Y, Tow String, and 3200 Acre Tract.
The legislation stated the need as follows, “Internet access is an essential part of daily life, work, and school and not all community members have access to the internet… assistance from the Tribe by supplying broadband internet to all community clubs at no cost provides community members access to the internet.”
Chief Sneed said, “On the community clubs that already have access, basically what we’re talking about is the subscription rate.”
He noted that there would be great costs associated for those that do not and would need fiber run to their building.
Another floor amendment was made following Chief Sneed’s observation which stated the services will be provided to the community clubs “whenever they are available in the area”.