Wilson Largely Exempted, but NC Takes a Big Step Backward

NC Legislative BuildingAfter four years of heavy lobbying, the cable company is probably getting what it wants. New municipal broadband NC probably won’t be developed if H129 clears the final hurdle at the Governor’s office. She has the option to veto, but no one knows what will happen.

More on that in a second, but there is a bit of important news for people in Wilson. Greenlight has been largely exempted from the bill’s effects. If you’re one of our 5,700+ members or you live in Wilson County, you don’t have to worry about service. Greenlight is here to stay.

If you live outside Wilson, the news isn’t so good. We have the fastest broadband in the Raleigh/Durham region, but we’ll have to keep it in Wilson. The bill dictates that people outside Wilson County can never hook up to our fiber. We’ve had requests to extend to Raleigh, but this bill ensured that our friends there will be stuck with you-know-who.

For those of you outside of Wilson, let me tell you what you’re missing.

  • Greenlight’s minimum residential broadband speeds are 10Mbps up and down
  • Our all fiber network is maintained by local crews 24/7
  • Our Police are using the network for security cameras in public places
  • Our Firefighters are using the fiber network for remote training
  • Input from our members has helped determine our video channel lineup
  • The costs are reasonable, and have forced even Time Warner Cable to lower its rates to its Wilson customers.

We’re glad to see Wilson exempted, but our state has allowed an outside company to place limits on it. Representative Bill Faison (D-Chatham) said it best in an interview with WUNC News:

“This bill should be retitled the Time Warner cable anti-competitive bill, it’s a New York company bill, it’s not even folks from around here’s bill, to keep our municipalities from providing services to their citizens. “

One more thing: thank you to all of you who have helped our state in this fight. We were surprised and encouraged by how many of you called a lawmaker or spoke up on NC’s behalf. Thank you so much.

Better bandwidth is about much more than cable

GreenlightWilson is exempt from S1209, but the bill would make it much more difficult for NC cities or towns to build similar networks in the future. As we watch the bill make its way through the legislature, here are some ways that Wilson’s community owned fiber optic network is helping the people of Wilson right now.

Remote training – our firefighters can do non-physical training from their assigned stations instead of driving somewhere else. This keeps our response times among the best in NC.

Surveillance cameras – local businesses had requested cameras in public parking lots. The fiber system cut the costs of such projects by approximately 90%, making them affordable.

Smart Grid/ Smart meters – Our electric distribution system will be using the fiber for smart grid and smart meter technologies that in trials have generated substantial savings on customers electric bills.

Schools – Greenlight is currently constructing a fiber ring linking all County schools together through a network that will offer increased speeds and redundancy to eliminate down times

Hospital/Physicians offices – We are in the process of linking physicians’ offices to the hospital.  This will allow on-line transfer of medical files including large bandwidth items such as x-rays.  In the future we envision “virtual” doctor’s visits for the homebound.

Free wi-fi to our downtown district, train station, athletic complex, airport and library.

Rural Broadband Committee Meeting Today, Nov. 23

A committee of lawmakers will meet this morning to look at broadband in NC, and may consider the issue of metered billing.

What’s metered billing? Here’s an interesting article from DSL reports, as well as some good forum posts. Essentially, metered billing moves away from the model we have now where you pay a monthly fee for unlimited service. With metered billing, people who access the Internet more often or download more material would pay more than everyone else. Big deal, right? It is. Netflix and other video services offer movies for download, and a host of other services are coming along that rely on heavy usage.

Why are the ISP’s doing this? Because they don’t have enough bandwidth to go around. If they had plenty, they wouldn’t have to figure out ways to make you use less. Wilson’s municipal provider, Greenlight, is an all-fiber optic network that doesn’t have the same limitations of these corporations. Our speeds are faster (10M/10M minimum residential) and there’s no talk of metered billing here.

The House Select Committee on High Speed Internet in Rural Areas will meet at 10am today in room 544 of the Legislative Office Building. If you can join us, we’d love to see you.

Help Needed: NC House Committee Looks at Metered Billing Monday, Nov. 23.

My friend Jay Ovittore sent me this note about an important meeting next week. Remember last summer when the cable company rolled out metered billing in Greensboro? The more you view/stream/download, the more you pay? The House is looking at the idea.

“The House Select Committee on High Speed Internet in Rural and Urban Areas will meet Monday, November 23rd at the General Assembly. In a prior meeting it was brought up that they might be interested in tackling the issues of metered billing and data caps on broadband internet service. We have a chance to mobilize and present something to this committee to protect our rights as consumers. “

“It has been proven that competition is the only way to drive prices down and if we allow metered billing and data caps in areas where there is no competitor we will never have a choice. It is your right as a consumer to stand up and do something about this. Please join me and many others in this fight. If you would like to be part of this effort please contact me at jovittore@gmail.com”

Live in Raleigh or Durham? You’re paying more, getting less from the same company.

So,  what happens when your town city or shows its interest in providing broadband services? I can only speak from our experience in Wilson, but it’s pretty interesting.

First, the incumbent provider lowered rates. After years of getting a yearly rate hike, they stopped in the City of Wilson. Haven’t had one in a couple of years now.

In fact, check this out. This morning, I went to the website of the cable company to check prices.

Here are the speed and price for the cable company in Raleigh. Click on the image for a better look.

Screen shot of cable company website on July 14, 2009

Broadband rates in Raleigh from the cable company. Screenshot from July 14, 2009

So, for $49.95 a month in Raleigh, you can get up to 7 Mbps for a month. For another 10 bucks, you can get up to 10 Mbps.

Now, compare that to Wilson. Again, same company.

Broadband costs in Wilson from the cable company. Screenshot from July 14, 2009

Broadband rates in Wilson from the cable company. Screenshot from July 14, 2009

How about that?

If you live in Raleigh, you pay more money for lower speeds than people in Wilson get from the same company. If you upgrade to 10 Mbps and live in Raleigh, you’ll pay $59.90 while a Wilson customer 40 minutes east of you pays $46.95. Heck, they don’t even offer 7 Mbps in Wilson. You go straight to 10. Greenlight’s minimum speed is 10 Mbps, too.

They also rolled out all sorts of discounts for packages, as long as customers were willing to sign up for two years.

I understand that they’re a private company and can charge pretty much whatever they want. I do find it interesting, though, that they can create these magically higher speeds for less money in two towns that are so close together. Why do people in Wilson pay less than people in Raleigh? Because people in Wilson have a choice. Greenlight offers the fastest speeds ( up to 100 Mbps residential) at a better value.

If your city is considering a fiber network, just know that those high cable and broadband prices you’ve heard about for so long may loosen up the minute you announce your interest.

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