Tag: "greenlight"

Posted October 10, 2019 by Katie Kienbaum

Which would you choose — a broadband subscription with download speeds of 15 Megabits per second (Mbps) or a much faster gigabit plan for the same price?

The choice is clear, and it’s one that low-income households in Hillsboro, Oregon, may soon make, thanks to the city’s planned municipal fiber network. Earlier this year, Hillsboro announced that its new broadband utility, HiLight, will offer gigabit connectivity for only $10 per month to qualified low-income residents. In comparison, Comcast’s Internet Essentials program provides low-income families in the city speeds of just 15 Mbps for roughly the same monthly cost.

Hillsboro isn’t the first community to leverage its publicly owned fiber network for digital inclusion efforts. Municipal networks across the country are providing low-cost connectivity, affordable devices, and digital skills trainings to their communities, bringing the educational, economic, and healthcare benefits of broadband access to more people.

Defining Digital Inclusion

Digital inclusion is the practice of ensuring digital equity, which the National Digital Inclusion Alliance defines as “a condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy and economy.”

Broadband availability is only one of many “digital divides” that explain who is and isn’t connected. For instance, income and affordability also play a role. According to the Pew Research Center, adults with annual incomes of $75,000 or more are almost twice as likely to have broadband access at home than adults with annual incomes of less than $30,000. Among those without home broadband access, the high cost of a subscription is most commonly cited as the top reason why, Pew reports.

logo-NDIA.jpg To succeed, digital...

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Posted April 16, 2019 by lgonzalez

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. 

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Posted April 5, 2019 by Katie Kienbaum

Innovation today requires a high-speed Internet connection, and in rural areas, that often means a fiber optic network owned by a local government, a cooperative, or a local business. It’s no surprise then that when the Rural Innovation Initiative was looking for rural communities with good connectivity and an interest in innovation-based economic development, it turned to cities served by locally owned broadband networks. Out of the nine communities initially selected to participate in the Rural Innovation Initiative, more than half have a local Internet access provider instead of a national ISP.

Initiative Bridges Rural Opportunity Gap

The Rural Innovation Initiative is a new program created by the Center on Rural Innovation (CORI) and Rural Innovation Strategies, Inc. (RISI), with funding and support from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA). Launched at the end of last year, the initiative works to “bridge the opportunity gap in rural America by helping communities build the capacity to create resilient, innovation-based jobs.”

For the first part of 2019, CORI and RISI selected nine cities and community partners to take part in what they describe as a “fast-paced technical assistance sprint,” which will help participants develop innovation hubs as an economic development strategy. The initiative will also prepare communities to apply for federal funding opportunities, such as EDA’s Regional Innovation Strategies program. More than 100 rural communities from 40 states applied for the program, which is free for participants. Selection criteria included location in a census-designated rural county, access to New Market Tax Credits and Opportunity Zones, partnerships with higher education and local nonprofits, and existing high-speed broadband networks — Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) in particular.

CORI and RISI, in partnership with EDA, will offer further technical assistance to communities through the Rural Innovation Initiative after this initial project complete. To learn more, watch a webinar about the program from December 2018.

Connectivity Sets Communities Apart...

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Posted January 28, 2019 by lgonzalez

People in the North Carolina towns of Albemarle, Fuquay-Varina, and Jacksonville, are gathering together this week to discuss rural broadband. Our own Christopher Mitchell and Katie Kienbaum are meeting with residents along with representatives from the North Carolina League of Municipalities and NC Hearts Gigabit in the three towns across the state. Recently, in WRAL TechWire, reporter Chantal Allam shared an interview with Will Aycock, who heads up Wilson’s publicly owned broadband network.

logo-greenlight-nc-2014.png Aycock described how Wilson’s Greenight Community Broadband had been developed to support the economic vitality of the community, while also providing other benefits. He also stressed that Wilson’s decision was significant for them and that each community needs to decide what’s best for their own needs.

In Wilson, he adds, the network has helped to spur a long list of economic development investments, including downtown revitalization and investment in the community’s corporate park. New jobs continue to spring up, while other nearby rural areas contend with losses. The local college has taken advantage of new technological training and programs that require gigabit connectivity. Additionally, the city’s other utility systems benefit from the advanced connectivity. “None of these accomplishments are because of Greenlight specifically, but rather Greenlight is part of a team both within the City and across the broader community that all work together to build our future,” says Aycock.

He and Allam also talk about plans that Wilson and Greenlight have to use the broadband network and fiber infrastructure to continue to advance. Smart city applications, innovative options for entrepreneurs, and more collaboration are all in the future for Wilson. Aycock described Wilson's future vision:

We see Wilson being a focal point for micropolitan smart city efforts that is not secondary to Raleigh-Durham, but rather a part of the North Carolina technology and innovation ecosystem. To make progress, we must think of each region of our...

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Posted January 22, 2019 by christopher

Susan Crawford has published the right book at the right time. Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution -- And Why America Might Miss It, makes a compelling case for local organizing around better Internet networks upon which the future will be written. 

The book revolves around several communities that will be familiar to anyone following community networks - cities like Chattanooga and Wilson, many of whom are members of Next Century Cities. Even people with only a casual interest in how to achieve the best Internet access will recognize some of the community names in Susan’s latest book. 

As someone who has tracked these networks closer than most, several of the anecdotes were new to me and sufficiently powerful that I - literally - had to restrain myself from cheering while finishing the book on a flight. So it works well both for someone unfamiliar with the technology or movement as well as for those of us who have worked from within it for many years. 

Susan dives right into the tech and marries it to the purpose:

Those hair-thin fiber strands, capable of carrying billions of phone calls simultaneously, plus advanced wireless communications that depend on that fiber extending into the last mile, will make possible virtually unlimited, cheap communications capacity wherever you are—which in turn will give rise to new businesses, new transport capabilities, new ways of managing our use of energy, new forms of education and health care, new ways of earning a living, and new forms of human connectedness. For these things to happen, both fiber and advanced wireless technologies need to be widely and competitively available. Without these basic pieces of open infrastructure in place, your country will be missing out on the future being lived and built elsewhere.

Speaking of purpose, this next paragraph is the type of prose that I think sets Susan apart from other writers on these issues.

There is a fundamental link between the school’s abundance of data connectivity and its nontraditional educational model. Upper-level students these days don’t want to be talked at, but they do want to learn. Teachers can no longer hide facts—because everything can be found online—but they are still needed as coaches and mentors. An enormous amount of learning and...

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Posted November 22, 2018 by lgonzalez

In the U.S., Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel times of the year. Families and friends come together to catch up, to eat tons of food, and to appreciate their good fortune. It's a time to count our blessings and laugh at a few of the characters common to every family. This year, we've imagined some of those characters at Thanksgiving Dinner in the world of telecom...

Momma Greenlight

by Lisa

Thanksgiving would be just another TV dinner without someone willing to wake up at 4 a.m. to put the bird in the oven, prep the potatoes, and bake the pie. Just like Mom, Greenlight in Wilson, North Carolina, has gone above and beyond for the community. In addition to  providing an important economic development tool and creating an innovative program for folks who might struggle a little with Internet access bills, Wilson connected their neighbor Pinetops. In much the same vein, we know that if the next door neighbor was alone on Thanksgiving, Mom would invite them over for turkey and pumpkin pie.

Uncle Comcast

by Jess

He’s that uncle you don’t want to get stuck next to at the dinner table. Uncle Comcast will spend the entire time talking up his newest business venture while he ignores your aunt’s repeated request to pass the mashed potatoes. When you finally get a chance to talk he suddenly has to leave the table to take a call from one of his many lawyers. You’re a little worried he’s working on scheme to swindle grandma out of house and home in order to monopolize the inheritance

Cool Aunt Ammon

by Katie

thanksgiving-dinner.png Everyone in your family is always talking about...

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Posted July 23, 2018 by Katie Kienbaum

In North Carolina, no other rural community embodies the rural struggle for high-quality Internet access as well as Pinetops. At a recent hearing in D.C., one of the leading voices in Pinetops, Suzanne Coker Craig, testified before a legislative committee assembled to delve into the issue. During her short five minutes at the Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Coker Craig described her town's rescue by the local municipal network and subsequent betrayal by their state legislature.

Pinetops Drama

Coker Craig is the owner of the small business CuriosiTees and former Town Commissioner of Pinetops; she has the ability to examine the community's situation as a resident, a business owner, and an elected official. In her testimony, she tells the story of how the once-fading Pinetops was revitalized when its neighbor, Wilson, did the neighborly thing and provided Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) to the small town. 

In 2016, Pinetops worked with a nearby municipal provider, Greenlight, to bring high-speed Internet services to its 1,300 residents, giving local businesses like CuriosiTees the connectivity they need to thrive in the modern economy. The expansion was only made possible after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) preempted a restrictive state law that benefited large telecom companies. However, the State of North Carolina appealed the FCC preemption and the court reversed the ruling within the year.

As Coker Craig pointed out in her testimony, people in Pinetops lobbied their state elected officials hard to obtain an exemption to the state law in order to keep Greenlight in their...

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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 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 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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