Tag: "north carolina"

Posted June 12, 2018 by Staff

Rural Pinetop residents are getting a glimpse of  the treatment they are going to receive from Suddenlink,  even before the ISP has started offering service in the small North Carolina community.  According to locals, Suddenlink subcontractors are busting water mains, connecting fiber without homeowner permission, and spreading lies about the Town’s favored community-broadband provider, Wilson's municipal network, Greenlight Community Broadband.

A Bright Economic Future For A While

Back in 2015, this tiny, low income, town felt grateful to receive Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), symmetrical gigabit Internet service from their electric provider, the municipal electric utility from neighboring Wilson. Suddenlink had turned their back on local residents for years, and before Greenlight began serving the community, a good day of Internet service from incumbent CenturyLink brought them 2 Mbps upload speed. 

With high-quality connectivity from Wilson’s Greenlight, the town began envisioning a new economic future. They recognized the importance of high capacity upload speed as an economic development tool to attract the professional and creative class. They wanted to attract doctors, lawyers, engineers, and digital media artists from Greenville and Rocky Mount to their town where the cost of doing business was low and the quality of life was high.

Tech entrepreneurs and other businesses community leaders in Pinetops hoped to attract need high capacity upload to share data heavy files, such as  x-rays, and blueprints from a home office or other place of business.

"Whose Side Are You On?"

In June 2017, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation, HB 396, mandating that the City of Wilson disconnect all its services from Pinetops within 30 days of being notified by a new provider that such retail service is “available” (words undefined but which seem like they could mean service is on for one home). The law is silent on Greenlight re-starting services...

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Posted May 9, 2018 by lgonzalez

You don’t have to live in low-population areas to participate in the 2018 National Rural Assembly’s Building Civic Courage event May 21st - 23rd in Durham, North Carolina. The theme of this year’s theme is “Building Civic Courage” and several experts in broadband, including our Christopher Mitchell, will be speaking at the event. You can still register online.

About the National Rural Assembly

The Assembly seeks to strengthen America by improving the current and future situations in rural areas. People and organizations that belong to the Assembly hail from all sectors, including grassroots groups, state and regional organizations, and national associations. There are more than 500 individuals and organizations that belong to the National Rural Assembly. They describe their purpose as:

The purpose the Assembly is to build a common, community-focused rural agenda based on participation of local, state, regional, and national rural leaders; empower rural leaders and their allies to educate policy makers about this agenda; and raise the national visibility of rural issues.

2018 Event

The Assembly describes the event:

The focus of this meeting will be how we build a more inclusive nation, viewed through a lens of civic courage. We'll explore a number of questions, such as: What does civic courage look like? Why is civic courage important for achieving policy change? How are rural people strengthening our democracy? How do we amplify wise, diverse, and informed rural voices in ways that promote better policies?

The Assembly always works on the issue of better connectivity in less-populated areas. This year’s event will continue to focus on better Internet access and how it affects rural Americans. One of the many break-out sessions at the event will be on Tuesday, May 22nd, and starts at 2:30 p.m. The Rural Broadband Policy Group, which is part of the Assembly, will sponsor the session titled “Rural Broadband in Our Sights.”

In addition to Christopher, Allie Bohm from Public Knowledge and Cheryl DeBerry of Garrett County Economic Development in Maryland...

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Posted May 9, 2018 by lgonzalez

Approximately 20 U.S. states have some form of legal restriction that creates barriers when local communities want to develop publicly owned Internet infrastructure. In North Carolina, where the state experiences a severe rural/urban digital divide, people are fed up with poor service from influential telephone and cable companies. Folks like Ned Barnett, Opinion Editor from the News & Observer, are calling on elected officials to remove the state’s restriction so local governments can do all they can for better connectivity.

Things Must Change

Barnett’s recent editorial begins out of frustration as he describes how unreliable Internet access forced him to take pen to paper. His own connection prevented him from tending to emails, doing online research, and his phone service also suffered due to momentary loss of connectivity at his office. He goes on to consider how the annoying but temporary inconvenience to him is a way of life for many in rural areas of his state.

While North Carolina has many of the same challenges as other states in getting rural folks online — lack of interest from national ISPs, challenging geography that complicates deployment — Barnett correctly zeroes in on the state’s restrictive HB 129. The law prevents communities with existing broadband infrastructure from expanding to neighboring communities and puts requirements in place that are so onerous, they make it all but impossible for communities considering similar investments to move forward.

Barnett rightly points out that the true purpose of the law was to protect national ISPs from competition, securing their position as monopolies and duopolies. He describes the problems with the state's approach and what North Carolinians have faced in the aftermath:

For one, Internet access isn't a consumer product. It's as basic as access to a phone, electricity or indoor plumbing. Secondly, there isn't any real competition involved. Rural areas often are limited to one provider offering slow access.

The Problem is Real

People familiar with the situation in North Carolina typically know the story of Wilson and Pinetops. When the FCC preempted HB 129 in 2015, Wilson expanded its municipal fiber optic...

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Posted April 3, 2018 by lgonzalez

The North Carolina League of Municipalities (NCLM) released a report in March with several recommendations designed to help the state boost connectivity for residents, businesses, and organizations. NCLM Legislative Counsel Erin Wynia and CTC Technology and Energy President Joanne Hovis authored the report that offers policy changes to encourage smart partnerships.

Download the report, Leaping theDigital Divide: Encouraging Policies and Partnership to Improve Broadband Access Across North Carolina.

The report dedicates time describing different public-private partnership models and the elements that make them distinct. In recent years, the term has been used to describe a broad spectrum of arrangements. We've highlighted partnerships in places like Westminster, Maryland, and Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, where both partners invest and share in risk and reward.

The North Carolina Situation

Wynia and Hovis spend time on the gap of coverage in rural areas vs coverage in urban areas. They compare data from the North Carolina Broadband Infrastructure Office and the FCC’s form 477. The authors explain why FCC data is so flawed and provide examples of real people who’s lives are impacted due to access to broadband, or lack of it, in their community.

Fiber is the best option for future-proof, fast, affordable, reliable connectivity. Wynia and Hovis compare fiber to other technologies and explain we can’t let hype cloud our long-term thinking. We were happy to supply our map of private ISP fiber availability in North Carolina so readers can see where it’s currently deployed in the state.

2018-03-NCLM-report-small.jpg The report looks at the state’s existing law that limits local authority regarding municipal broadband infrastructure. As the authors point out, state law does not expressly address local communities’ authority as it...

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Posted January 31, 2018 by christopher

It was just a year ago that we highlighted a nation-leading digital inclusion effort from Wilson's Greenlight municipal fiber network in North Carolina. That was their fourth time on the podcast, owing to the many ways Wilson has developed in ensuring its fiber network investment is benefiting the community. See also podcast episodes 171, 110, and 70

Will Aycock, General Manager of Greenlight Community Broadband, is back once again to discuss another new program they have developed - a new billing option that unlocks broadband access particularly among low-income households with low credit ratings. 

Greenlight has developed a pay-ahead option that allows households to pay ahead of connections so their lack of credit will not deter them from accessing the Internet service they may need for education, work, or other uses. It also allows households to more easily pay down past debts - an important approach in dealing with the financial reality of low-income households. We hope to see more municipal networks developing billing options like this to ensure everyone can have the connections they need.

Though we focus on that billing approach in our interview, don't miss the recent developments in Wilson's ongoing efforts to share the benefits of its network with its neighboring communities, many of whom do not have broadband access. 

This show is 15 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

Read the transcript for this show here.

You can download this...

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Posted January 30, 2018 by lgonzalez

Suddenlink passed up the opportunity to offer connectivity in Pinetops, North Carolina, for years until now. About a year after a bill in the General Assembly gave nearby Wilson’s municipal network the ability to serve the tiny community, Suddenlink is taking advantage of the law to enter Pinetops and push Wilson’s Greenlight Community Broadband out.

Suddenly Suddenlink

One of his constituents called Town Commissioner Brent Wooten last October to share a conversation he'd had at work in nearby Wilson. Wooten's constituent had encountered a Suddenlink employee who told him, "We're coming to see you in Pinetops." The company had sent out a notice to employees that overtime would be available because Suddenlink was planning to run fiber from Rocky Mount to Pinetops.

Wooten hadn't heard anything from Suddenlink; neither had any of the other Commissioners. All he knew was that the company had been reducing staff and cutting costs ever since being acquired by Altice in 2015.

A Little History

While events that put Pinetops (pop. 1,300) in the national spotlight began in February 2015, the story has roots that go back further. Officials in Pinetops, recognizing that better local Internet access keeps small rural communities from wasting away, approached several providers years ago requesting better Internet infrastructure. Suddenlink’s service area ends about two miles outside of Pinetops town limits. Nevertheless, Suddenlink wasn't willing to bring cable service to Pinetops. CenturyLink didn't want to make investments to upgrade the community's old DSL solution; the community had no options from national providers.

Not far from Pinetops sits Wilson, North Carolina, where the city of about 49,000 enjoys the benefits of a publicly owned fiber optic network, Greenlight. Pinetops officials asked Wilson to expand Greenlight to their town, but state law precluded Wilson from offering broadband beyond county lines. Pinetops and the local Vick Family Farm, a large potato manufacturer with international distribution, were both desperate for better services, out of reach, and out of options because no other ISP...

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Posted December 28, 2017 by lgonzalez

Local investigative news shows often earn a reputation for digging into scams and rip-offs that pick consumers’ pockets. In a recent WLOS News 13 Investigates segment, Western North Carolina’s ABC affiliate started asking some tough questions about Frontier’s Internet access service in rural parts of the state.

A Comedy Of Errors

At the heart of the rip-off in this investigation is Frontier’s habit of advertising speeds that it cannot provide. The WLOS crew traveled to a home in a mountainous area of the region to visit Craig Marble, who moved from D.C., and works from home in the tech field. “It's just a comedy of errors except that it's not funny. It takes five minute to load a single webpage,” Marble said.

Marble discussed how he has paid for service of up to three Mbps download but he has never, to his knowledge, been able to obtain even that slow speed. As far as he’s concerned, he should at least be able to get what he’s paying for every month.

“This should be 3.0, not .3,” Marble said. He showed News 13 various speed tests for his service, they came up .3 and .5, and .6 at various times throughout the morning and afternoon.

Complaints, Complaints, Complaints

According to News 13, numerous complaints against Frontier resonate through local conversation. The station had received other complaints from people, some reporting that their Internet access works about 60 percent of the time. When they followed up with the Attorney General, they learned of 56 complaints filed against Frontier, about half due to issues with slow speeds.

WLOS spoke to Christopher about big telecom’s tendency to advertise “up to” speeds:

“If you can get good speeds in the middle of the night, but not during the day, I think that's deceptive advertising to be suggesting to people that they can get those speeds,” said Christopher Mitchell, director of Community Broadband Networks at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Minnesota.

Mitchell says, companies shouldn't advertise what they can't offer.

“This is not something that is beyond the ability of the company to solve, this is a decision that they're making which is to market a service that they cannot deliver or are willing to deliver on reasonable terms,” said...

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Posted December 4, 2017 by Staff

This is the transcript for Episode 280 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Christa Wagner Vinson, Deborah Watts, and Alan Fitzpatrick join Christopher Mitchell at the Atlanta airport to discuss the work of NC Hearts Gigabit and how they're organizing for local choice and better connectivity. Listen to this episode here.

Deborah Watts: And you know we need we need to get regulations in legislation that prevents local choice out of the way these people on the tractors the ones in the production rooms the ones in the businesses that can go to their representatives and say You all need to do something about this because I'm having difficulty running my business. I can't be competitive.

Lisa Gonzalez: You're listening to episode 280 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. Christopher recently attended the broadband community's economic development conference where he was able to connect with this week's guests from North Carolina Christa Wagner Vinson, Deborah Watts, and Alan Fitzpatrick from the group and NC Hearts Gigabit joined Chris to talk about local choice and better connectivity in North Carolina and how they're using technology to bring people together. Catharine Rice from the Coalition for Local Internet Choice was also there in this conversation. You'll learn how and see how it's gigabit began. Who's involved. What they've accomplished their goals and you'll also hear some tips on the best way to get the word out and get organized. You can learn more about the group. Check out the collection of resources and even join up at their website and see hearts gigabit dot com. Here's Christopher with Christa Wagner Vinson, Deborah Watts, Alan Fitzpatrick, and Catharine Rice.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits podcasts. I'm Chris Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Atlanta sitting on the runway of the Atlanta airport at the Broadband Communities Conference talking to you now with three folks from an organization called NC Hearts Gigabit I'm going to start by introducing Christa Wagner Vinson, the economic development consultant of the group. Welcome to the show.

Christa Wagner Vinson: Good...

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Posted November 21, 2017 by christopher

NC Hearts Gigabit is a grassroots group recently launched in North Carolina that aims to dramatically improve Internet access and utilization across the state. We caught up with Economic Development Consultant Christa Wagner Vinson, CEO of Open Broadband Alan Fitzpatrick, and Partner of Broadband Catalysts Deborah Watts to discuss what they are doing. 

We discuss their goals and vision for a more connected North Carolina as well as their organizing methods. Given my experiences dining in that state, I'm not surprised that they have often organized around meals - good stuff!

NC Hearts Gigabit offers an important model for people who feel left out of the modern political system. It is an opportunity to get out from behind the desk, engage others, and build a coalition to seize control of the future for a community or even larger region. And have a tasty lunch.

Learn more on their website or follow them on Twitter.

Read the transcript for this show here.

This show is 27 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Posted November 20, 2017 by Matthew Marcus

Wilson has made their community-owned Greenlight fiber network central to their economic development plan, a move that may forge a new approach for other communities with similar assets.

Revitalization Efforts

In 2008, when Wilson’s Greenlight community network first launched, the Federal Communications Commission ranked North Carolina last in the nation in percentage of households subscribing to at least a "basic broadband" service. Today Wilson offers free Wi-Fi downtown, schools and libraries are outfitted with high-quality connectivity, and a majority of households subscribe to the broadband service.

Home to over 50,000 residents, Wilson has had a diverse history of industries popping up and dissipating over the years. After deploying their Greenlight Community Broadband, they’ve leveraged new businesses and an entrepreneurial spirit that shows no sign of relenting.

Wilson is initially focusing development downtown. The local daily paper The Wilson Daily Times decided to refurbish an old building and move downtown. The city raised money to renovate an old theater into a cultural center, and an electrical components manufacturing company, Peak Demand, has invested $2.6 million to renovate an old tobacco processing plant.

A Shift From the Old

Wilson involves all community stakeholders to make this revitalization a success. They have worked closely with Barton College, a liberal arts university, and the local nursing school. The community is consciously trying to buy locally and many people meet to discuss how best to promote this.

Wilson’s economic development model has evolved alongside their broadband network and they credit much of their success to Greenlight's benefits. In years past, many towns looked to bolster their economy by attracting companies that offered a windfall of manufacturing jobs— an industrial-era dream. But Wilson is no longer fretting over the decline of large-scale manufacturing companies that once haunted rural America. Instead, they’ve embraced the evolution towards technology companies and entrepreneurial business.

logo-greenlight-nc-2014.png Their community-...

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