Winston Salem Journal: Telecoms can’t expect people to keep waiting

The Winston Salem Journal did an excellent job covering the municipal broadband issue this week. The writers understood that the people of NC shouldn’t have to wait around for cable and telecom companies to improve their systems.

US broadband speeds simply haven’t kept up with many countries because the copper cable and telephone wires are slower than fiber optic networks. Some cities and towns, such as Wilson, have built fiber optic networks but the industry giants want to stop them. Wilson Greenlight speeds are many times faster than anything else you can buy here.

Here are a couple of segments from the editorial about senate bill 1209:

If the General Assembly were to give the telecoms what they want, they would be setting a higher standard for Internet borrowing than exists for most other government borrowing. And legislators would look hypocritical in passing such legislation because they’ve been borrowing without bond referenda for many years.

The issue here is that North Carolina’s small towns and rural areas need fast Internet service so they can attract business. With high-speed Internet, people can work from home, too, thus increasing the likelihood that small Internet-based businesses can take advantage of lower costs in rural areas. Also many people currently work from home. They can move to rural areas and stay employed by urban companies if they have a high-speed Internet connection.

Senate bill 1209 is expected in one of the committees next week. More on that as we know more.

Editorial: Moratorium protects cable monopoly at communities’ expense

This Wednesday, May 5th, Senator David Hoyle (D-Gaston) will propose a moratorium on municipal broadband in NC. The Salisbury Post recently published this editorial about it. The moratorium, to be presented in the NC Revenue Laws Committee goes hand in hand with the cable company’s repeated attempts to change the law to protect its monopoly. Salisbury is building a fiber to the home network called ‘Fibrant’ that will be similar to Wilson’s Greenlight fiber network. Salisbury’s network will go live this summer. -BB

Cable wars in Raleigh
Published Monday, April 26, 2010 11:00 PM
Salisbury Post

Salisbury city officials say they’ve been assured that whatever happens to House Bill 1252, it won’t short-circuit the city’s fiber-optic cable to the home network. But there’s a good reason they, other municipal officials and local businesses are rallying opposition to the bill.

They know its passage would severely inhibit the spread of high-speed cable to many areas of the state, leaving Salisbury and a few other pioneering municipalities in a position similar to the lone wagon surrounded by an angry war party. Clearly, the cable industry wants to mount a pre-emptive attack on the municipal broadband movement in its infancy. It would be naive to think the bill wouldn’t seriously affect the long-term viability of the Fibrant system and others that have started up or are on the drawing board.

In pushing the House bill, industry advocates have spoken of the need to “level the playing field.” But it’s debatable who faces the bigger hills here — cable companies worried about losing customers through competitive disadvantage, or municipalities trying to keep pace with 21st century communication technologies. City governments can rightfully argue they want a level playing field, too, when it comes to attracting new businesses and providing necessary services to citizens. Broadband is comparable to a 21st century version of rural electrification or the interstate highway system. That’s why the federal government set aside $4.7 billion in stimulus grants specifically designated to help local governments like Salisbury provide broadband to unserved and underserved areas.

Yet, if the HB 1252’s intent becomes reality, such areas will be severely hobbled in their near-term ability to tap into the broadband revolution. Private telecommunications companies — in this case, primarily Time-Warner — will determine where services will go and when they will go there. Such decisions will be driven by short-term profits, not a long-range vision of community progress. That’s like letting one or two asphalt companies determine the future of North Carolina’s roads.

At this point, the fate of House Bill 1252 has yet to be determined. Last week, the Revenue Laws Committee heard the pleas of municipal officials, local businesses and others who support municipal broadband, as well as the arguments of cable companies who believe the municipal ventures enjoy an unfair advantage. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t be having this debate. The city of Salisbury wouldn’t need to enter the fiber-optic business because multiple cable companies would be fighting tooth and nail to provide that service. Instead, cable companies are fighting to preserve the near monopoly they’ve enjoyed in many communities. Rather than leveling the field, HB 1252 looks more like an attempt to bulldoze away consumer options.

Another place where community broadband is working

The Economist did a great story recently about  our friends in Bristol, Virginia. Bristol, like Wilson, ran its first fiber a few years ago to connect City facilities, then made it available to everyone after people in town asked for it.

In fact, when Wilson was building its fiber ring several years ago, several local businesses asked the guys stringing up the fiber if they could connect, too.

Here’s a segment of the article: “The Federal Communications Commission will have to take up this matter when it sends its broadband plan to Congress in March. Since 1995, at the urging of telecoms companies, 18 states have erected barriers to entry for municipal utilities.”

The private cable monopolies in NC continue their efforts to prevent cities and towns from making their own decisions regarding next-generation communication. The NC Legislature returns to Raleigh for the short session in a couple of months.

“How does Greenlight work?”

We still get this question from time to time as more people call to ask questions about Wilson’s new network.

Greenlight:

  • is a fiber to the home network. The fiber runs over a separate line that goes straight to your house.
  • runs on the computer, TV,  and phone you’re already using (assuming they’re only a few years old).
  • is owned and operated by the City of Wilson
  • has free, local tech support 24/7
  • is available to every business and home in the City of Wilson
  • offer residential speeds up to 100 Mbps
  • services are often less expensive than traditional cable/phone providers

Greenlight is not:

  • associated in any way with the cable or phone companies. It’s an entirely different technology.
  • DSL
  • wireless
  • WiMax

Fiber is the fastest, most reliable technology for this sort of thing. The City of Wilson’s network is entirely fiber. Here’s a short article that explains it pretty well. The only thing that doesn’t apply here is the cost. The author says fiber is more expensive, but Wilson’s service prices are actually lower than what you’ll find in other places.

If you’re a techie, this is all review; but some citizens, including newcomers, are still learning about this network. Wilson’s Greenlight is the fastest and most reliable service here.

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