It’s been a little over ten years since Wilson, North Carolina, began offering Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) service to residents and businesses. After a decade of Internet access, video, and voice services, the Greenlight Community Broadband network recently celebrated adding the 10,000th subscriber. Their planned celebration at Wilson’s famous Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park was rained out, but network leaders expect to choose another date in the near future.
Check out this awesome editorial cartoon about Greenlight's milestone by Dave DiFillippo of the Wilson Times.
A Busy Decade
We told the story of Wilson in our 2012 report, Carolina's Connected Community: Wilson Gives Greenlight to Fast Internet. The community had approached ISPs serving in the area and asked for better connectivity in order to stay competitive, but those companies didn’t see a financial incentive for investing in Wilson. Rather than take no for an answer, Wilson developed Greenlight for the community of about 50,000 people.
Since then, the town has repeatedly been in the spotlight as an example of a community that has used broadband to advance economic development, help bridge the digital divide, and encourage better connectivity for neighbors. Wilson was the first North Carolina Network to offer gigabit connectivity, which assisted local businesses and attracted new employers. Tina Mooring, a local business owner, describes in episode 171 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, how her opinion of the municipal network changed, leading to her strong support for network expansion.
Leaders in Wilson answered appeals from the small community of Pinetops after the FCC preempted state restrictions in 2015. The small community of about 1,300 people finally obtained fast, affordable, reliable Internet access beyond DSL, which gave local businesses and entrepreneurs opportunities they never had before. When the state legislature chose to side with monopoly cable and telephone companies, however, and appeal the FCC’s preemption, Pinetops floated in limbo for months, uncertain if they would be sent backward to reliance on DSL. After reversing the FCC action, the General Assembly forced Wilson to sell the fiber infrastructure in Pinetops; Greenlight sold the infrastructure to Locality Networks to Suddenlink. Suddenlink is now also offering service in Pinetops. People in the community have expressed their dissatisfaction with the company; they preferred Greenlight’s services and customer approach.
Headlining Economic Development
Leaders in Wilson know what they’ve got and have worked to focus on the network’s economic development mojo. They’ve developed the Gig East brand, which brings technology, policy, and economic development to Wilson. Watch the video below about the 2018 Gig East event.
“The benefits to the community have been remarkable, and in many ways are only coming to fruition in the last few years,” [Wilson Chief Operating Officer Dathan] Shows said. “Greenlight has aided in the recruitment of businesses and residents, assisted almost every service provided by the city to become more efficient and effective, provided world-class connectivity to all schools in the Wilson County school system, supported local business and industry and provided a state-of-the-art communications and connectivity infrastructure to every address in the city of Wilson and many in Wilson County.
“As exciting as the first 10 years have been, I am very excited to see what the next 10 years will bring for Greenlight and what additional benefits it will provide to the community.”
More Convos on Greenlight
For more conversations on Wilson and Greenlight, be sure to check out our podcasts with Will Aycock and other representatives from the community:
- Episode 291 about the program designed to help reduce Wilson's digital divide
- Episode 236 regarding efforts to bring access to affordable housing
- Episode 110 about the petitions filed which led to the FCC's preemption of state law, later reversed
- Episode 70, one of our early podcasts, highlighing the work of Greenlight and the benefits to the community