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SMITHFIELD — Anthony Barnes had just one request when he appeared before county commissioners this month.
Bring Google Fiber to Johnston, he said.
Barnes, who lives in Princeton, said his household gets its internet access from Spectrum, but it’s slow. “We have the cable internet,” he said later in a Facebook message. “It’s not fiber optic, and it’s an open-loop system, which means multiple houses share the same junction box and feed off one main node, which slows it down.”
That’s bad for business, Barnes said. “I run multiple businesses out of my home, and the slower, buffered speeds make it difficult to conduct business,” including video calls, he said.
The slower speeds also make it hard, Barnes said, to “stream movies, run my security system, play games over the internet” and, for his daughter, “stream music.”
Barnes said he had reached out to Spectrum, which told him he had the fastest speed available.
“The speeds they advertise are only over a wired connection, not wireless,” he said, adding that he prefers to work via Wi-Fi rather than sit at a computer desk all day. “You lose a lot of speed” that way, he said.
Scott Pryzwansky is a spokesman for Spectrum owner Charter Communications. In an email, he said the cable company offers its top internet speed — 1 gigabyte per second — too all of its customers in Johnston County.
Pryzwansky said he would need more information from Barnes in order to best explore what might be going on. “It would be an isolated service issues but wouldn’t want to speculate without additional information,” he said.
Google Fiber also offers a top speed of 1 gigabyte per second, but it’s not available in Johnston. Barnes told commissioners he’d like to have that choice.
They were sympathetic.
District 3 Commissioner Chad Stewart represents Princeton and other rural communities in eastern and southern Johnston. The county’s faster-growing communities are to the west, near Raleigh.
“With all the newfound growth that we have in the county, they have the amenities,” Stewart said. “We just don’t have a lot of amenities in that area,” he said of District 3.
County Commissioners Chairman Ted Godwin did Barnes one better — or one worse. “Mr. Barnes, I can relate,” he said. “Where I live, I can’t even get Spectrum.”
Internet access with high speeds “is something we need to work towards,” Godwin added.
Chris Johnson, the county’s director of economic development, said countywide internet access was on his to-do list. “There are a lot of dark areas in Johnston County that do not have internet access at all,” he said.
And that could hinder economic development, Johnson said. “Just like water and sewer are important for industry and natural gas, internet connectivity is highly for industry but also for our citizens,” he said.