On January 1, Wayne County, North Carolina, issued a Request for Information (RFI) for high-speed Internet service expansion or delivery. The due date is February 28, 2017.
Prior to releasing the RFI, the county conducted a survey that they made available online and in paper form; they sent home copies with students in the public school system. They received 628 responses of which 13.8 percent of respondents said they don't have Internet service at all. Of those that do not have the service, 58.1 percent say there is no company that will provide it to them and 23.7 percent say they can’t afford it. Fifty-nine percent of respondents were dissatisfied with their Internet access; the reason were speed, cost, and reliability, in that order.
Looking For Ideas Next
The county’s RFI expresses their desire to work with private sector providers to bring connectivity to all areas of the county, especially the areas that are currently unserved. Their goal is to get residents and businesses connected with speeds that reach the FCC’s defined broadband speeds of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload.
In order to facilitate the efforts of the private sector, Wayne County has asked potential respondents to address how issues such as pole attachments, conduit, and dark fiber would fit into their proposals. They also want respondents to let them know how federal, state, or local regulations may hamper ideas for improving connectivity in Wayne County:
Regulatory environment: Description of any rules or regulations at the federal, state or local level that could impact the feasibility or underlying economics associated with the proposed solutions. Responses should also include an explanation of any forms of proposed regulatory relief, including streamlined permitting, which could improve the economic case for the business models or network solutions proposed or for other network solutions that respondents considered but dismissed due to existing regulations and their effect on economic viability of such proposal.
Just last year, the state of North Carolina was able to convince the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit to reinstate a restriction on municipal networks that the FCC preempted in 2015. There are also several rules that discourage electric cooperatives from offering Internet access. It's possible respondents will offer some suggestions Wayne County can take to the legislature or implement locally that can create a way to work around existing barriers.
Wayne County officials want possible respondents to also address contract issues and consider partnership and revenue opportunities in their RFI replies. Above all, the RFI is intended to be an opportunity for potential collaborators to connect with the county and present their concepts:
This RFI is intended to outline the market opportunity and invite interested providers to submit their ideas for new or expanded service delivery in Wayne County. This process is one of many steps that the County is taking to help unserved and underserved areas throughout the county.
Wayne County’s population is sparse - about 122,000 people over a total of 557 square miles. Their county seat, Goldsboro, is about 55 miles southeast of Raleigh and home to approximately 36,000 people. Manufacturing for the auto industry employs many people and the area has a robust livestock and poultry industry. It's also home to the Syemour Johnson Air Force Base, one of the area's largest employers.
Deadline for questions is February 15, 2017. Responses are due February 28, 2017. Read the full RFI on the Wayne County website.