High-speed Internet Eludes Rural North Carolina Resident Amid Pandemic

Summary: In a striking testament to the digital divide, a patient advocate residing in the mountains outside Murphy, North Carolina, struggles with inadequate internet access, undercutting her ability to work remotely and utilize telehealth services.

Upon relocating to a mountain home in April 2020, Kathryn Clemens faced unforeseen connectivity issues, jeopardizing her patient advocacy work for individuals with Graves’ Disease. Clemens’s reliance on steady internet was met with the grim reality of living in a rural area where the local internet service provider ceased accepting new customers due to pandemic-stressed capacities. With dense woodland thwarting satellite services and a cellphone signal plagued with interruptions, Clemens resorted to a makeshift data hotspot that provided subpar speeds nowhere near federal standards.

During the pandemic’s outbreak, Clemens’s advocacy work, governed entirely by online interactions, was critically hampered. Digital platforms became more essential, yet out-of-reach for those in remote regions. The Federal Communications Commission’s benchmark for acceptable speeds—25 mbps for downloads and 3 mbps for uploads—remained a distant dream for her.

Efforts to ameliorate the situation seemed to compound the problem. A Verizon representative assured infrastructure enhancements in Western North Carolina, but subsequent touchpoints with customer support yielded no tangible improvements.

Looking forward, The Cable Company’s foray into fiber-optic services in Murphy could provide Clemens with a needed upgrade. This hope is tepidly met, given mixed community feedback about this provider’s customer service track record.

Expansion of internet services is vital, but progression is slow and often mired in complex federal and state funding schemes. As healthcare pivots increasingly towards online methods, the urgency for universal broadband access is accentuated, and the case of Clemens underscores the pressing need for connectivity equity in rural America.


What issues is Kathryn Clemens facing in Murphy, North Carolina?
Kathryn Clemens is struggling with inadequate internet access, which hampers her ability to work remotely on patient advocacy for Graves’ Disease and to use telehealth services.

Why is Kathryn’s internet access inadequate?
The local internet service provider has stopped accepting new customers due to high demand during the pandemic. Additionally, dense forests and a weak cellphone signal in her rural location prevent reliable satellite and cellular data services.

What are the federal standards for internet speed, and how do Kathryn’s speeds compare?
The Federal Communications Commission’s benchmark for acceptable internet speeds is 25 mbps for downloads and 3 mbps for uploads. Kathryn’s hotspot provides speeds well below these federal standards.

Has there been any effort to improve the internet connectivity in Kathryn’s area?
A Verizon representative promised infrastructure improvements in Western North Carolina, but there have been no visible enhancements that benefited Kathryn.

Is there hope for better internet service in the future for Kathryn?
The Cable Company is exploring fiber-optic services in Murphy, which may potentially provide Kathryn with better internet access. However, the community’s opinion on the company’s customer service is mixed.

Why is expanding internet services crucial, especially in rural areas?
Expanded internet services are critical because healthcare and many other services are moving online, making broadband access essential for everyone. Rural areas like where Kathryn lives, in particular, face disadvantages that can lead to a digital divide without proper connectivity.

Terms and Definitions:
Telehealth: The use of digital information and communication technologies, such as computers and mobile devices, to access health care services remotely and manage your health care.
Digital Divide: The gap between demographics and regions that have access to modern information and communications technology, and those that don’t or have restricted access. This can include the disparity in internet speeds or connectivity.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC): An independent agency of the United States government created to regulate interstate communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable.
mbps: Megabits per second, a measure of internet bandwidth and throughput on a network.
Fiber-optic services: Internet services that use fiber-optic cables to deliver high-speed internet with more reliability and faster speeds than traditional copper cables.

Related links:
Federal Communications Commission
– Please note, only the main domains are linked as specific subpage URLs cannot be verified.