Dismal speeds from most providers still the norm in the US

Yahoo! News has a good story today about Internet access speeds, and the news is no surprise. In spite of millions of dollars of slick advertising and cartoon characters, we’re still slow in this country. This line sums it up best. “When it comes to Internet performance, in the aggregate, none of us are exactly living it up. The fastest throughput in America clocks in, on average, at a measly 1.22Mbps.”

These figures include the cable giants who are charging you big bucks for “blazing” speeds and such.

Greenlight’s slowest residential speed is 10Mbps upload and download. Why is Greenlight different? The network is all fiber optics, plus we serve a smaller area. Most of the cable companies, including the one with the most customers in NC, rely on old copper lines that simply can’t carry the same speeds as fiber optic networks. PC Mag recently said, “Those results are clear: fiber-to-the-home is the way to go nationwide…”

Wilson invested in its own network, and other NC cities and towns deserve the same chance. If they’re forced to wait on the outdated cable and telecom companies, the US will continue to lag behind other developed countries.


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.

WBTV Charlotte nails it with fiber optics story

WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte did a really effective job this week explaining why fiber optics is better than the old fashioned cable lines. They covered our friends in Salisbury, NC, just a few hours from here, who are planning to launch their own fiber optic network later this summer. They will join Wilson as the only cities in NC with fiber to every address in town.

I love the opening line: “In the old days if you wanted to attract business to your town you built a railroad.  Later, you added highways, and phone lines.” Today, we believe next-generation broadband is just as important.

In Wilson, the tobacco market helped build our city in the 20th century. While tobacco is still grown in areas outside the city, the tobacco warehouses that fueled our growth have shut down for good. We need our Greenlight broadband network for the next century. Communication is a critical element of the information and creativity economies.

The FCC has explained that municipal broadband is just one way the US can improve its broadband infrastructure.  Senator Hoyle’s bill, S1209, sends NC in the opposite direction with additional burdens that will keep NC cities on the sidelines.

Private sector: city/county broadband moratorium would “interfere with workforce development, stifle creativity and innovation”

The cable company, in its efforts to protect its monopoly in NC cities, has tried to frame municipal broadband as government versus the private sector. Once again, a host of national private sector companies says that’s just not true.

Google, Intel and Alcatel-Lucent have written a letter to NC lawmakers, urging them not to adopt a municipal broadband moratorium. They’ve written similar letters twice before, and they’ve helped keep the issue at bay for a while, but the cable company keeps convincing different lawmakers that new protectionist laws are needed.

A moratorium on new city/county broadband networks is expected tomorrow, May 5, in the Revenue Laws Committee. -BB

May 4, 2010
The Honorable Joe Hackney
North Carolina House of Representatives
2304 Legislative Office Building
Raleigh, NC 27601-1096
Senator Marc Basnight
President Pro Tempore
16 W. Jones Street, Room 2007
Raleigh, NC 27601-2808

Dear Speaker Hackney and Senator Basnight:

We, the undersigned private-sector companies and trade associations, urge you to oppose any legislation that would place a moratorium on public broadband deployments in North Carolina. Such a bill would harm both the public and private sectors. It would thwart public broadband initiatives, stifle economic growth, prevent the creation or retention of thousands of jobs, and diminish quality of life in North Carolina. In particular, it would hurt the private sector in several ways: by undermining public-private partnerships; by hamstringing the private sector’s ability to sell goods and services in North Carolina; by interfering with workforce development; and by stifling creativity and innovation.

The United States continues to suffer through one of the most serious economic crises in decades. To address these concerns, Congress and the Obama Administration have made more than $7 billion available to catalyze both public and private efforts to accelerate the deployment, adoption and use of broadband infrastructure and services. The Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan also admonishes states not to interfere with community broadband efforts where local officials do not believe that the private sector is acting fast enough or well enough to meet the community’s broadband needs. Consistent with these expressions of national policy, public entities across America, including North Carolina, are doing their share to bring affordable high-capacity broadband connectivity to all Americans. Enactment of a counterproductive municipal broadband moratorium would thus not only hurt both the public and private sectors, but it would also put North Carolina conspicuously at odds with national broadband policy.

We support strong, fair and open competition to ensure users can enjoy the widest range of choice and opportunities to access content online, which is the heart of economic development in an information-based global market. A municipal broadband moratorium is a step in the wrong direction. North Carolina should be lowering barriers to public broadband initiatives rather than establishing new ones, so that we and other high technology companies can spread and prosper across this beautiful state. Please oppose any moratorium or limitation on municipal broadband deployments


Alcatel-Lucent, American Public Power Association, Atlantic-Engineering, Fiber to the Home Council (FTTHC), Google, Intel, Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), United Telecom Council (UTC)
cc: Governor Beverly Perdue
Secretary of Commerce J. Keith Crisco
Rep. Hugh Holliman
Rep William Wainwright
Senator Katie Dorsett
Senator Phil Berger
Representative Paul Stam

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.

Great Facebook fan page available for community broadband

Communities United for Broadband

Communities United for Broadband

As countless cities and towns wait to see who will get the Google fiber gift, more communities are realizing that they may need to pursue fiber on their own.

Wilson asked the private service providers to build a fiber network and they said no, so we built it ourselves. Today, we have 100M synchronous connections available to homes and 1G connections available to business and industry.

Some folks who obviously know a lot about municipal broadband have created a great Facebook presence where you can learn more about this potential option. As great as the Google Fiber Initiative is, no one expects more than one or two cities to land a fiber network because of it. Wilson’s community-owned fiber network, Greenlight, is working better than expected two years in. It may also be a good choice for your community.

Wilson already has what other cities are begging for

Hats off to Topeka, Kansas, a.k.a. Google, Kansas. The city believes so strongly in faster broadband speeds that they have unofficially changed their name to attract Google. Google Fiber for the Communities hopes to: “test ultra-high speed broadband networks in one or more trial locations across the country.” Fiber brings speeds that blow away the old copper stuff.

Before I say anything else, I need to remind you that Wilson already has what Topeka wants; fiber to the home. Wilson’s slowest residential speed is 10M down and 10M up. You can go all the way up to 100M, if you choose. And, Greenlight is owned by the community.

Now, back to Topeka. Here’s an excerpt from a story at CNN:

The company has said U.S. Internet speeds are falling behind the global standard, and it wants to fix things itself by installing new broadband cable. (Mayor) Bunten hopes the proclamation, which he read at a special City Council meeting on Monday, will catch Google’s attention and make the Internet company decide to use Topeka as its guinea pig. The document renames Topeka as “Google, Kansas — the capital city of fiber optics.”

Good luck, Topeka. Fiber optics are a wonderful thing. If you ever want to try out some true broadband speeds, we’d be happy to show you in Wilson.

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.

Google shows that Americans want better speed.

Some exciting news is out about broadband speeds. Google is looking for a few markets around the US to build fiber networks. These networks would provide Internet access at up to one Gig per second.

The networks would be experimental and they’re probably many, many times faster than what you have now. If your only choice is the cable or phone company, your speeds are probably topping out at about 6 Mbps. During the recent snows when the kids were out of school, I bet the speed dropped even more due to high demand.

Google’s announcement verifies one of the key reasons the City of Wilson built its all fiber optic network two years ago. In spite of the cable company’s insistence that their “blazing fast” speeds are enough, people want more. Today’s Web demands it. Tomorrow’s Web will need even more bandwidth.

Greenlight, Wilson’s all fiber network is available to every address in town, and it’s owned by the people of Wilson. Today, we offer residential speeds up to 100Mpbs. Our businesses can get up to one Gig, the same speed that Google is researching.

Yet, the cable company wants the State government to prevent cities like Wilson from offering these speeds. The back and forth in the NC Legislature goes on.

Lawmakers again looking at muni broadband on Dec. 14

A handful of City staff will go back to Raleigh next week, Monday, December 14th for a meeting with the Select Committee on High Speed Internet Access in Rural and Urban Areas. The committee is looking into the issue of municipal broadband in NC. The specific study is of H.B. 1252, the Level Playing Field bill that would restrict cities and towns in NC from providing communication services.

We’ll be there again. Many of you came to the most recent meeting and we appreciate it. This one is in the same room, 544 LOB, at 9:30am.

So what happened last time? A couple of attorneys with ties to the cable company came after Wilson with a vengeance. I don’t remember them mentioning one time what commitment their client was making to improve broadband access in our state. Instead, both offered some untruths about how Wilson wanted a cable monopoly. Let that irony sink in for a moment. The cable company is worried that someone else will get a monopoly.

Our city manager mentioned that the City of Wilson didn’t build the community fiber optic network because of money. He mentioned that it was built to make true broadband available to our citizens and to help boost City services such as fire and police. The network won’t be paid off for another 10-12 years, but Wilson was willing to make that investment in its people.

The attorney’s response: It’s always all about money.

His answer shows one of the key differences between his client and a local government organization. Our elected officials won’t make an additional dime because of Greenlight. They made the decision to offer fiber optic service to everyone because Wilson deserves access to this network.

The cable company will eventually improve its bandwidth in big cities. Thanks to our community owned network, Wilson won’t be left behind.