Back to top Jump to featured resources
Article, Resource filed under Broadband

Report: Community Network Leads North Carolina to Fast Internet Future

| Written by Christopher | 1 Comment | Updated on Dec 5, 2012 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/wilson-fiber-greenlight/
Wilson Gives Greenlight to Fast Internet

Following the collapse of key industries, a town of 50,000 in eastern North Carolina had to make a hard choice. It wanted to support existing businesses and attract new ones but the cable and telephone companies were not interested in upgrading their networks for cutting edge capacity.

So Wilson decided to build its own fiber optic network, now one of the fastest in the nation, earning praise from local businesses that have a new edge over competitors in the digital economy. In response, Time Warner Cable lowered its prices and modestly boosted available Internet speeds, contributing to the $1 million saved by the community each year.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance and Common Cause have just released a case study of how and why Wilson built Greenlight, a citywide next-generation fiber-to-the-home network that set the standard for connectivity in North Carolina. The report is authored by Todd O’Boyle of Common Cause and Christopher Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Download Carolina’s Connected Community: Wilson Gives Greenlight to Fast Internet here.

The network, owned and operated by the municipal utility, offer telephone, television, and Internet services to every resident or business in the city. Over 6,000 households and businesses have subscribed, a take rate of over 30% and growing. Additionally, the network has connected all of the schools with at least 100 Mbps connections. Downtown has free Wi-Fi and the library has benefited with a higher capacity connection for people looking for jobs and taking computer classes.

The Federal Communications Commission ranks North Carolina last in the nation in percentage of households subscribing to at least a “basic broadband” service, largely because Time Warner Cable, CenturyLink, and AT&T have declined to upgrade their networks to modern standards. Only 13% subscribe to a connection that is at least 4 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream — the minimum required to take advantage of basic Internet applications according to the FCC.

See also, our followup report, The Empire Lobbies Back, detailing how Time Warner Cable and Allies responded by forcing a new law through the General Assembly to prevent others from copying Wilson.

Read ongoing stories about these networks at ILSR’s site devoted to Community Broadband Networks.  You can also subscribe to a once-per-week email with stories about community broadband networks.

About ILSR: Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) proposes a set of new rules that builds community by supporting humanly scaled politics and economics. The Telecommunications as Commons Initiative believes that telecommunications networks are essential infrastructure and should be accountable to residents and local businesses.  www.ilsr.org

About Common Cause: Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization founded in 1970 by John Gardner as a vehicle for citizens to make their voices heard in the political process and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest.www.commoncause.org

Tags: / / / / / / / / /

About Christopher

Christopher Mitchell is the Director of the Community Broadband Netwroks Initiative with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. He runs MuniNetworks.org as part of ILSR’s effort to ensure broadband networks are directly accountable to the communities that depend upon them. More

Contact Christopher   |   View all articles by Christopher

  • Paul Ferris

    As we have come to expect from ILSR, this case study is another concise yet detailed report on how a small but determined municipality took on the big guys and built a broadband network that played a key role in connecting and reenergizing a community ignored by the incumbent service providers. Thank you.