Greenlight Expands In Wilson & Battles Proposed Legislation From Rival Companies

By: Natalie Kaplan Email
By: Natalie Kaplan Email

The City of Wilson has gone green and is literally lighting up a new era of improved technology for its residents. Wilson has created Greenlight, the state's only all fiber optic network.

Wilson’s IT Director, Michael Basham says, "For our residential customers we have the highest internet speeds available in North Carolina, great video packages, and great phone packages that they have ownership in when they join Greenlight"

Wilson officials say their community wasn't getting the services it deserved at a reasonable price so the local government created a network that met residents needs.

According to Wilson’s Public Affairs Manager Brian Bowman, "If you buy from the cable company currently you're buying from copper lines that have been around for decades. We have a 100% fiber optic network, it doesn't use the same technology, it's newer and that's why it works so much better."

Plus, the company says its services are cheaper and that's drawing in customers. Greenlight's goal was to penetrate 30% of the market within the first 3 years of business, it's been less then 1 year and they're already at the ½ way mark at 15%.

But some are working to enact a red light for companies like Greenlight. The North Carolina Telecommunications Association is trying to get legislation approved that would make it harder for these networks to exist.

Bowman says, "The bills were designed to keep cities out of the business and protect the monopolies that are currently in a lot of cities but the good news they are in subcommittees and not having the impact they intended to have."

Even if something does come of the measures, Greenlight officials say they haven't done anything wrong.

"Wilson & Greenlight were created legally, we have not broken the law, done everything we were supposed to do."

We spoke with Brad Phillips, the President of the North Carolina Telecommunications Association, that's the group sponsoring the legislation right now with support from companies like Time Warner and Embarq. Phillips says this is not about a big company trying to take down a smaller business but instead the bill is about leveling the playing field.

"This is about a municipality and other municipalities across the state competing unfairly. There are certain tax advantages that municipalities have particularly in the areas of cross subsidization. If I were a citizen of Greenlight and living in Wilson I would be concerned that my tax dollars were going to pay a subsidy for an endeavor, for something I've already got, in other words, there are companies already providing the service, in this case, Time Warner, why would my tax dollars in this case electric dollars go to subsidize a system that is being built and operated in the city that I already have."

Phillips tells us Wilson would be grandfathered out of any legislation passed which he says means Greenlight would not be affected. Phillips is also an employee of Time Warner.

The Senate and House have sent the measure to a study committee, where it is being researched further.

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