Internet access continues to present a challenge to many people in Augusta County.
Some students are forced to download everything onto their devices while they’re at school since they know that internet is not an option once they get home.
“I’m not upset about not having internet because I want to watch TV,” Kent O’Donohue, who lives in Mount Sidney, said.
O’Donohue reached out to local internet providers before he even built his dream home to make sure that internet was available.
“This is where I always imagined my main internet coming from,” O’Donohue said. “I said, ‘well, I’d really like to confirm this before the house is built.’ They’re like, ‘we can see it right here in our computer systems, you definitely have it.’”
But, as it turned out, the tech-savvy engineer who built his house near many other houses in Mount Sidney didn’t have it.
“Here I am with this high-tech, high-speed house and I have no internet available,” O’Donohue said.
He’s been looking to move ever since.
“I would have never built this house,” O’Donohue said. “Never – I would have never bought this land.”
O’Donohue says the deadline for moving is when his 3-year-old daughter goes off to elementary school.
“There’s demographic shifts of people who have internet and who don’t have access to internet as far as the quality of education that they’re getting,” O’Donohue said. “I mean, there’s data now showing that.”
According to a 2016 Augusta County survey, many people are in a situation like O’Donohue’s.
“Half the population is dissatisfied or doesn’t have internet access,” Marshall Pattie, an Augusta County supervisor, said.
That includes wide areas in the North River district, the western side of Augusta County, and little pockets throughout the county.
“It’s the number one complaint I get in my district,” Pattie said.
Pattie continues to be a vocal advocate for expanding internet access in the county because he sees the impact on quality of life when it comes to education and other opportunities.
“I think there’s going to be a point where you don’t have internet access at your house, you’re not going to be able to sell it,” Pattie said.
He recently formed a broadband committee with members representing every district in the county in an effort to keep the momentum going.
“To be the best prepared county, to have a plan in place,” Pattie said. “To have an actionable committee that is always progressively and aggressively looking for opportunities to expand internet through the private industry.”
The county is actively looking for private partners to join it in applying for grant money to deal with some of the pockets in the county that remain off the grid.