Wilson lauded as good example in national story about rural broadband

If you find the ebb and flow of technology news a little hard to follow, you can find a great summary of tech news each month on the Business Week CEO Guide to Technology.

In the magazine’s most recent podcast, broadband expert Craig Settles mentioned Wilson’s Greenlight as a role model in the deployment of rural broadband.

I’ll let you listen for yourself, but to give you the Cliffs Notes version, Settles talks about the stimulus plan and its national efforts to make broadband available to under-served areas. He also mentions that broadband providers fight local governments or non profits tooth and nail when they want to fill in the gaps.


“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.


  • 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.

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.

Fiber broadband is big asset for homeowners

New report out by the Fiber to the Home Council says that an overwhelming majority of people who have fiber all the way to the home rank it as a “leading real estate amenity”, according to Gigaom.

Here’s a segment: “A national study of U.S. broadband consumers by RVA LLC Market Research and Consulting shows that fiber-to-the-home ranks higher than green spaces, a neighborhood patrol and a community pool when consumers are evaluating planned communities.” Wilson’s Greenlight is a fiber to the home network.

Fiber to the home is different than copper networks, which still dominate the NC landscape right now. Copper wires are the same technology that brought you cable in the 70s. When I first fired up Mtv as a young kid, I saw it over copper wires. Great for nostalgia, but not so great for the demands of today’s Internet.

Fiber is different. It carries huge amounts of data and is the next generation of true high-speed Internet access. Wilson’s network, Greenlight, is ALL fiber. One cable company even advertises its “advanced fiber network”, but it’s mostly the same copper wires that have been in place for years. Greenlight offers the fastest Internet speeds in NC, and some of the fastest in the US.

Makes it a little more clear why the cable company is trying so hard to prevent Wilson and cities like it from building and maintaining next-generation networks.

“Does anyone even NEED 100Mbps?”

That’s a paraphrase of a statement a cable company rep. told a reporter in this area not long ago when referring to Wilson’s municipal fiber optic network. After all, most people in the US are lucky to get 6Mbps download (and a fraction of that upload).

Wilson offers 100Mbps residential service today through Greenlight. Will there ever be mainstream demand for it, like the cable guy says? Check out what’s happening in South Korea where five MILLION residents have 100Mbps service in their homes. From Telecoms Korea:

The number of 100 Mbps Internet subscribers in Korea passed 5 million as of April, according to industry statistics.

Among 12.7 million Internet subscribers, 5.1 million (about 40 percent) subscribers are using high-speed Internet. The portion of 100 Mbps Internet subscribers rose from 20 percent in 2006 to 29 percent in 2007, and then 39 percent in 2008.

Some would have you believe that Americans don’t NEED triple-digit speeds. I think our friends in Korea would suggest otherwise.

Broadband blog is good reading


Strange as it may seem, a lot of good things have come out of this battle in the NC Legislature. While the cable company rushed us with big lobbyist cannons, you good folks jumped up with armor aplenty. First, a big thank you to all of you.

I’ve crossed paths with some great people during this year’s battle. One of them is Craig Settles of Fierce Broadband Wireless. Settles knows technical jargon yet can craft a  family of sentences that keep it interesting. I encourage you to check out his blog daily. Craig and I have not exchanged a single dollar. I just admire the guy and want you to see his work. Here’s a sample:

“Small town governments are not noted for having gobs of engineering resources or battalions of technology experts. Yet Wilson used mostly internal staff to design a network that’s 100 Mbps down and up. The staff built the network’s backbone. They retained a design firm mainly for guidance, and another firm to build out one element of the network. Wilson isn’t alone.

While incumbents are making grand proclamations announcing 100 Mbps services, which seem to be more hype than reality when you peel back press releases, Pulaski, Tenn., Lafayette, La., and UTOPIA also have built and launched 100 Mbps services. Forget for a minute the arguments some make about the business viability of muni networks.

Instead of spending all that money on lobbyists and public campaigns to stifle community efforts, Time Warner, et. al., should be flying their designers into these rural areas to find out how they’re pulling this off. The argument that you need to legislate a level playing field is ridiculous. You don’t have a 100 Mbps product to compete with and it’s not clear when you will. These towns with far fewer resources than private sector companies are delivering the service with satisfied customers now. Don’t kill these projects, figure out how to clone them! Or partner with them.”

Video of the House Vote

Here’s a 29-minute unedited video of the vote to send HB 1252 to a study committee. We’re told the cable company is lobbying to hand-pick a more friendly committee instead.