City Council Tackles Technology Challenges and Resident’s Complaints in Lucas
Not too long ago, city governments focused their attention only on basic issues like providing and maintaining adequate roadways and sewers, providing for consistent waste and trash removal, ensuring clean water, and providing appropriate police protection and emergency medical and fire protection. Today though, city councils are wrestling with many different complex and fast-moving issues like homelessness, drug use, zoning issues, and of course, technology, just to name a few.
Some Lucas residents have periodically complained about the quality of their Internet connectivity as well as complaints from some who say they have no Internet connectivity options at all. Because the Internet has become such a vital source of news, entertainment, and communication, many consider it as essential as heat and electricity. Remember, with the rapidly increasing number of employees who work remotely from their homes either always or periodically, securing adequate Internet connectivity is essential.
Several months ago, the City Council decided to conduct a survey to determine what strategies might be employed to address the deficiencies and concerns expressed by many residents. The survey was deployed from September 24 through October 19 and the council has received 400 responses. The survey probed three key elements: residential information, where do each of the respondents reside in Lucas; technology-related services such as “who is your provider?”; and, several general communications questions like, “how do you receive information about city government and services”?
The results disclose how difficult it may be to ensure uniformly satisfactory Internet connectivity. The residential density of Lucas compared to most other cities is very sparse, it is one of the principal attractions that Lucas offers --- lots of acreage for those who want it. Complicating the matter even more is the number of service providers. The survey responses identified more than 12, and likely as many as 20 or more different providers (the ‘Other’ category contains 26 responses, but the providers are not identified). AT&T heads the list of providers with 169 responses, next highest is Rise Broadband with 87 customers, but several like Grande Communications (1), Cellular Card (1), Hughesnet (13), Dishnet (2), Verizon (4) and Viasat (5) are also involved.
As if this was not complex enough, the delivery methods of Internet service are equally diverse and include cable (29), Cellular (28), DSL (81), Fiber (120), Hot Spot (6), Satellite (35), Twisted Pair (17) and 14 additional delivery schemes.
Since the city council already knew about this diversity of providers and methods of delivery they broke the city into four different zones including Zone 1(Blue) -North of West Lucas Road and West of Country Club Road; Zone 2 (Red) – East of Country Club Road, North of Blondy Jhune Road, and West of Orr Road; Zone 3(Green) – East of Country Club Road, South of Blondy Jhune Road, North of East Lucas Road and East of Orr Road; Zone 4 (Purple)- South of West Lucas Road and South of East Lucas Road. This dissection allows the council to understand where providers deliver their services and where satisfied as well as dissatisfied residents reside. Based upon the data, the City may be able to address deficiencies with the appropriate providers.
Survey results, when viewed by zone, are revealing. In Zone 1 (Blue), 65% of residents are serviced by AT&T. On the question of Internet Satisfaction 78% say they are Very Satisfied or Satisfied.
In Zone 2 (Red), only 27% are either Very Satisfied or Satisfied and 73% or residents are either Dissatisfied or Very Dissatisfied. Only 48% of residents are served by AT&T while 42% are served by Rise Broadband or Suddenlink.
In Zone 3 (Green), the principal providers are AT&T (46%), Rise Broadband (32%) and, Frontier (13%). There 56% say they are either Very Satisfied or Satisfied but 44% say they are either Dissatisfied or Very Dissatisfied.
In Zone 4 (Purple), the principal provider is Frontier by an overwhelming margin (93%). Those who say they are either Satisfied or Very Satisfied are 57% of the total, while 43% say they are either Dissatisfied or Very Dissatisfied. Compare these data with satisfaction/dissatisfaction margins in Zone 1 where 65% are served by AT&T and 78% say they are either Satisfied or Very Satisfied. Clearly, something seems amiss in Zone 4 and merits close scrutiny. But satisfaction margins in three of the four zones are in need of significant improvement.
Often, when assessing survey results, an indicator of how important the subject of the survey is can be judged by the number of comments, aside from the questions asked, respondents have offered. In the case of this survey (400 surveys returned) residents offered 199 comments, an incredible response rate of nearly 50%. Not all of the comments are relevant to the subject of the survey. Many residents offered comments about other city services, many were grateful for the city’s outreach, but a troubling number reported details of their dissatisfaction.
At the November 1st Council Meeting, the Lucas City Council unanimously adopted a motion creating a Technology Committee consisting of one Councilmember liaison, staff, five Lucas residents, and Bill Baxter from Baxter IT. The purpose of the committee is to provide recommendations to the City Manager and City Council on issues of community-wide interests relation to information technology and Internet services. The committee will research issues, collect public input, and strategically encourage affordable access to city-wide technology services.
Council member Debbie Fisher was appointed as the council’s liaison. Lucas residents who qualify will inform the City Manager of their interest in serving on the committee. You will find qualification requirements online at https://www.lucastexas.us/departments/boards-commissions.