Wilson had fiber while the rest of N.C. was waiting for its page to load | News Feature | Indy Week
Pin It

Wilson had fiber while the rest of N.C. was waiting for its page to load 

click to enlarge Crews install fiber optic cable in a neighborhood of Wilson in June 2008. The city-owned and financed fiber optic network offers every Wilson resident the option to access the fastest Internet connection in the state.

File photo by D.L. Anderson

Crews install fiber optic cable in a neighborhood of Wilson in June 2008. The city-owned and financed fiber optic network offers every Wilson resident the option to access the fastest Internet connection in the state.

Long before Triangle governments began courting Google Fiber's ultrafast Internet service, Wilson was calling itself "North Carolina's Gigabit city."

This city—population 49,628—east of Raleigh outdid every other North Carolina municipality in 2008 by launching its own municipal broadband, a move that sparked panicked lobbying from regional Internet providers and, eventually, legislative action ensuring it might never happen again.


Bring Google Fiber to your neighborhood

For your neighborhood to become a "Fiberhood," neighbors need to rally to meet a registration goal for Fiber. Erica Swanson, head of Google's Community Impact Program, says there are many ways to start:

  1. Look up your neighborhoods' sign-up goal, and sign up for Google Fiber updates. Google could map these sign-ups to determine of which neighborhoods want the service most, in addition to the neighborhoods that are most densely populated.
  2. Monitor online the number of sign-ups and the closing dates for your neighborhood.
  3. Attend monthly Google-sponsored events in your city—and bring your neighbors—to boost signups as part of Google's "rally mode."
  4. Promote sign-ups on social media and check the Google Fiber blog; follow Google Fiber on Google Plus, Facebook and Twitter.
  5. Visit Google's mobile Fiber Spaces to learn about Google's gigabit Internet and HDTV services.
  6. Attend your neighborhood and community meetings, which Google's Community Impact managers will attend.
  7. If you live in a condo or apartment building, tell your landlord you're interested in getting Google Fiber and have them fill out a landlord interest form.

"We stepped out on a limb," says C. Bruce Rose, mayor of Wilson. "But we're tickled to death with it."

Wilson's Greenlight service, financed through the city government, delivered fiber Internet connections for all homes, businesses and schools, much like the city provides utilities such as water, electricity and sewer.

But Republican and Democratic state lawmakers, many of them receiving campaign donations from powerful telecom providers, all but banned cities and counties from building their own broadband networks with public tax dollars in 2011.

Before the innocuously titled "Level Playing Field" bill became law, the Rowan County municipality of Salisbury followed Wilson's example, constructing its own public broadband system.

Today, Wilson's Greenlight broadband service counts about 7,100 customers in Wilson County. City leaders are also lobbying the Federal Communications Commission to allow Greenlight to expand outside the county to local governments already buying their utilities from Wilson.

The city offers a range of packages, but its premium Gigabit service, which costs about $100 a month, rivals Google Fiber in speed, outstripping local competitors Time Warner and CenturyLink.

Telecom companies said the model offered local broadband an unfair advantage. Other critics said it was an inappropriate use of public dollars. Wilson leaders say it's been a major boon for the city, attracting new businesses and, eventually, new revenues.

"In a modern world, people should fully understand that broadband is infrastructure," says Will Aycock, Greenlight general manager. "Local government has always been in charge of infrastructure."

Wilson took on roughly $35 million in debt to start Greenlight. Aycock says the city is about nine years from paying off its debt, helped by annual revenue surpluses since 2010.

Rose adds that Greenlight could eventually be a money-making venture for Wilson once the debt is paid.

"We spent public dollars on our water system," he said. "We spent public dollars on electrical utilities. I see nothing wrong with spending public dollars on Greenlight. It's something our citizens need."

The public model is becoming an increasingly popular one in the U.S. today. President Obama issued a call during last month's State of the Union address for the FCC to overrule bans on public broadband in 19 states, including North Carolina.

A spokesperson for Time Warner Cable, which lobbied the state for the 2011 legislation, could not be reached.

  • How to get Fiber first

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in News Feature



Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

Before the election, the progressives all said that everyone else should "unite" and come on board after Hillary would win …

by Rational 1 on Welcome to the Resistance: Trump Is President, But Trumpism Can Never Prevail (News Feature)

Stop lying, if you want to be a journalist. Trump is not banning refugees, and this kind of exaggeration is …

by Rational 1 on Meet the Triangle Refugees Who Donald Trump Believes Pose a Threat to the United States (News Feature)

Hypocrites! Where were you when the Nobel Peace Prize-winner invaded and dropped bombs on half the countries affected by the …

by Timothy Hagios on Meet the Triangle Refugees Who Donald Trump Believes Pose a Threat to the United States (News Feature)

Jim Smith - Don't forget he gave priority to "Christians". Be responsible, repeat what Trump actually said.

by Raleigh Guy on Meet the Triangle Refugees Who Donald Trump Believes Pose a Threat to the United States (News Feature)

Trump did not impose a 'Muslim ban.' False, not so. Be responsible, review and report on what Trump actually did. …

by Jim Smith on Meet the Triangle Refugees Who Donald Trump Believes Pose a Threat to the United States (News Feature)

Comments

Before the election, the progressives all said that everyone else should "unite" and come on board after Hillary would win …

by Rational 1 on Welcome to the Resistance: Trump Is President, But Trumpism Can Never Prevail (News Feature)

Stop lying, if you want to be a journalist. Trump is not banning refugees, and this kind of exaggeration is …

by Rational 1 on Meet the Triangle Refugees Who Donald Trump Believes Pose a Threat to the United States (News Feature)

© 2017 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation