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Wilson petitions FCC to strike broadband law

City of Wilson leaders filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission asking for the overturn of a state law that restricts the expansion of the city’s broadband network, Greenlight.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler committed in March to look closer at state laws that restrict cities from offering the newest technology and the FCC is considering overruling state laws that restrict government-run networks. Wilson leaders are asking the FCC to exercise its preemption authority under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act, with respect to North Carolina law that restricts municipal broadband.

Because of state law, Wilson is restricted to offering Greenlight service in Wilson County but often receives requests for service outside of the county. The city’s petition to the FCC says that North Carolina law restricting municipal broadband is inconsistent with the Telecommunications Act and should be determined to be unenforceable.

"The city’s petition seeks to remove the significant operational barriers imposed by the state law so that Greenlight can continue to thrive and serve our community,” Mayor Bruce Rose said. "I have seen Wilson evolve from the World’s Greatest Tobacco Market to North Carolina’s First Gigabit City. We have continuously invested and re-invested in public facilities. Years ago, our city council saw fiber optics as the public infrastructure of the future and absolutely essential to improve the economy, provide jobs and improve our quality-of-life. Greenlight has been a great example of the benefits that community broadband can provide for a city.”

The city of Wilson found itself part of a four-year legislative battle that resulted in 2011 legislation that set rules regarding competition between government and private companies. The bill requires cities to have a public vote before seeking ways to finance new broadband networks and cities are required to pay the same taxes and fees as private companies do.

The city of Wilson is exempt from most of the bill but restricted from expanding Greenlight, a high-speed, fiber-optic network outside of Wilson County. Greenlight serves close to 7,000 customers but city leaders say an expansion would not only benefit Greenlight and its operations but also the city.

Dathan Shows, assistant city manager for broadband and technical services, sees the state restriction as limiting cities. Other municipalities have halted plans to launch broadband systems and if the law was not in place some would likely be in the business today, he said.

The FCC chairman favors increased competition that could include government-run systems in an effort to provide increased access across the nation.

"We must use all the tools at our disposal to encourage competition wherever it is possible,” Wheeler said during a May hearing before a communications and technology subcommittee in the U.S. House. "One place where it may be possible to encourage competition is municipally owned broadband systems . . . if municipal governments want to pursue it, they shouldn’t be inhibited by state laws ....”

Broadcasting Cable reported Thursday that the FCC received requests from Chattanooga, Tennessee and Wilson to preempt state laws restricting their ability to provide broadband service.

"We have just received the petitions filed by EPB of Chattanooga and the City of Wilson, North Carolina, and are reviewing them,” said Wheeler in a statement to Broadcasting Cable. "We look forward to a full opportunity for comment by all interested parties, and will carefully review the specific legal, factual and policy issues before us.”

Will Aycock, Greenlight operations manager, said he expects a response from the FCC and city officials are hopeful that the FCC will work to expand the ability of cities to provide the newest Internet technology.

"They will go into the process of reviewing it,” Aycock said. "It will be a matter of months, at least, for them to correspond.”

Aycock said there is more of a national focus on expanding broadband across the nation to ensure that Americans have access. The city’s petition coincides with the increased interest, which is also coming from Congress, he said.

"It’s a conversation that’s happening at a higher level,” Aycock said. "It’s, basically, a time when issues like this are being discussed at the national level.”

Wilson’s community broadband system, which serves close to 7,000 customers, is a 100 percent fiber-optics network and the first of its kind in North Carolina. Greenlight started serving customers in 2008.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals invited the FCC to act to preserve a free and open Internet and ruled that the FCC has the legal authority to issue enforceable rules. North Carolina is one of 20 states with laws restricting cities and towns from building or expanding their own broadband networks. | 265-7818

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Windsong01 said...

Crony Capitalist, Thom Tillis has come to the rescue of big cable yesterday filing a comment with the FCC opposing Wilson's request citing 'By now, you are more than familiar with the key components of North Carolina’s “Level
Playing Field Law.” Critically, this law does not prohibit cities from competing with private
business in offering broadband or other communication services"
Asking the FCC to reject the request claiming it is illegal
complete statement here :

Sunday, August 31, 2014 at 10:56 PM
Pretty Marie said...

Nothing lasts forever. Not even Greenlight.

Monday, August 04, 2014 at 11:44 PM
To Wilson petitions FCC said...

Wilson is the first city in the South to have gigabit internet speeds without a faceless corporation backing it (and gouging the customers). That's pretty darn special.

Saturday, August 02, 2014 at 7:28 PM
If Greenlight is doing so great ... said...

There's nothing ignorant about wanting transparency from an enterprise for which Wilson taxpayers are liable if and when Greenlight experiences a financial downturn ... or, inevitably, becomes obsolete.

Friday, August 01, 2014 at 8:38 PM
@If Greenlight is doing so great said...

It is public record. Go look for yourself. That was old news about records being private and was not because of fear of the general public opinion but other broadband companies competition. We don't get to see TWC's detailed broadband plan do we? Nope. I don't of any businesses that shares detailed proprietary information nor detailed financial aspects. Wilson is SPECIAL and any old dead fish can float down river. Its the truly innovative who swim upstream and challenge the norm. I've traveled many places around the world on business and you'll be hard pressed to find a better broadband infrastructure in any city of this size. People are so lucky yet try and cut if off at the knees. PLEASE don't post that type of stuff makes us all look ignorant.

Friday, August 01, 2014 at 10:55 AM
Wilson petitions FCC said...

because Wilson is SO SPECIAL.

Friday, August 01, 2014 at 10:49 PM Greenlight Fan! said...

Thank God for Greenlight!!! My business depends on a fast internet connections and Greenlight is far superior to Time Warner. When I talk to the technical support staff for the companies we work with, they cannot believe that we have fiber to our office and that we have Gigabit speed. Before the city went forward with Greenlight, Time Warner was asked to upgrade their network in Wilson on a reasonable time table and they refused. Their loss! I had Time Warner before we moved to Greenlight and the customer service was awful. It takes at least three transfers before you can get someone who can understand your problem and knows how to "escalate" you to the right department. Greenlight puts Wilson on the technology map. Well done, City of Wilson.

Friday, August 01, 2014 at 9:20 PM If Greenlight is doing so great ... said...

... why don't officials open the business records for everyone to see?

Thursday, July 31, 2014 at 1:02 PM @Expert Opinion said...

All their fears were proven to be wrong with time. We are just fine, many other cities in the US followed, and got the attention of several businesses which came here. Unlike most on here, people do think outside the box and the city is smart enough to also have people interested in buying out the business for a substantial profit. It is not just a one time deal and done as JLF would have you think.

Thursday, July 31, 2014 at 9:29 AM To Expert Opinion said...

Of course JLF came out against it. It's a perceived (and ill-perceived, at that) threat to the free market and limited local government.

Thursday, July 31, 2014 at 1:11 AM Expert Opinion said...

The John Locke Foundation came out against Greenlight.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at 3:39 PM @Dear Pretty Marie said...

It was covering expenses in 2010 ahead of schedule and has been on the positive side ever since. Successful businesses expand, unsuccessful businesses close up shop.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at 2:50 PM @this is crazy said...

Why should the city not be in the Internet business? You gave no explanation. It's the private sector that's failed to keep up with the times. The local phone and cable companies haven't made significant improvements in years, and have no plans to do so any time soon. Plus we’ve have private independent companies right here in Wilson who will sell Internet access/time to you. But rarely does anyone offer all the services of tv, phone and internet apart from the phone and cable companies hence why they jacked up prices and had terrible customer service because you had no option. You liked that?? So to address your concern about the city being in the business, you need to remember utilities have a much closer relationship to government than ordinary private companies. To build a broadband network, you need to either need to dig up a bunch of public streets or you need access to telecommunication infrastructure located in public rights of way. You also need permission to trim trees you don't own, erect utility boxes around town, risk damage to underground pipes and cables, obstruct traffic, and so forth. So governments are always involved in the provision of basic infrastructure such as roads, sewers, electricity, and telecommunications. Also, the threat of possible competition from municipal networks gives cable and telephone incumbents an incentive to be on their best behavior. So even people in areas that don't have municipal networks benefit from having other cities build them. GL covered expenses ahead of schedule in 2010 even amid a pretty bad economy. They’ve done a great job thus far and TWC has raised rates in surrounding areas without GL. BB&T VP was in the paper talking about what this means to business in our area.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at 2:49 PM Dear Pretty Marie said...

This story is about expansion of the Greenlight system. Obviously, Greenlight isn't making enough money to survive without expansion.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at 1:19 PM This Is Crazy said...

The city should not be in the Internet business. What next? Free whirligigs for everyone?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at 11:38 AM @not going to happen said...

They already have. Where have you been? It was posted as a story in the New York Times. And TWC had their chance and pretty much snubbed their nose at customers here. Once GL happened, I got call after call from TWC making all kinds of offers. It felt great to turn them down and I've been with GL since the very beginning; not one problem; not one customer service complaint; best internet options for personal or business. And GL is self-supporting. All costs are already being captured in budgets each year and plans for any upgrades way out into the future. How much you think it will cost TWC customers to get fiber and be on par with this technology? There's something you should be concerned about; their stuff is antiquated today all over the state and no way will it ever be upgraded. Cable TV knows cable is outdated, but is able to keep everyone buying it because everyone already has it; well until GL came along. There is a rich opportunity in what GL created and I know that one business here in town located here because of that infrastructure and used several WAN connections through GL. TWC is not even a player in that market, but TV. Big woo.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at 10:20 AM To Pretty Marie said...

"Sooner or later, Greenlight is going to require costly upgrades or repairs. Who is going to pay for that?"
The customers.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at 10:33 PM Not Gonna Happen said...

With all the problems Wilson has, people will not move here just to use the Internet.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at 10:03 PM @ The Truth said...

You still didn't answer the original question, and your scenarios are flimsy at best. And naming yourself "The Truth" (and "Fact") doesn't add gravity to your statements. As for Pretty Marie's concern, if Greenlight is allowed to flourish as it can/could, then any profits from the service would far outweigh the upgrade/repair costs, just as TWC does in their business model. For those against Greenlight, you must remember that Wilson approached TWC requesting upgrades to be done, and TWC did nothing. Greenlight was created when the city decided to invest in infrastructure themselves, and only then did you see TWC respond, first by trying to stifle competition through legal challenges, then by trying to cost cut the service locally. If you've enjoyed lower rates with TWC, you have Greenlight to thank for that; however, if you ever go to Greenlight, you'll see how big a difference there is in quality of service. Greenlight is a forward-thinking service for the city, and I applaud those who had the vision to implement it. If electric rates come down in the next few years, Wilson could be well positioned to compete as a bedroom community of Raleigh in a number of different business sectors, and Greenlight will be one more selling point in that equation (despite what naysayers say/think).

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 at 3:47 PM Pretty Marie said...

Sooner or later, Greenlight is going to require costly upgrades or repairs. Who is going to pay for that?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 at 1:26 PM Fact said...

Wilson taxpayers are liable for Greenlight if it loses money.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 at 12:46 PM The Truth said...

What if your neighbor just happens to work for Greenlight. Do you really want that neighbor to have the ability to peek into your account and Internet usage whenever they want?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 at 12:39 PM said...

Greenlight is legal. Quit your scare tactics. They filed all the request and requirements to install it. And now they petitioned the FCC. If you are running something illegal, would you ask the Federal Government for something? It was funded from bonds, not tax payer money.
Second: Technology. Best you can get and they put the right infrastructure in place for the future and even garnered national attention. If you like TWC, good. TWC would have never improved customer service and services if not for Greenlight. Plus look at the infrastructure: GL fiber vs TWC coax cable! No way, no how will cable compete with the fastest and highest quality fiber available. TWC internet you compete for bandwidth with those in your grid. With GL you have dedicated speed just to your home. Compare for yourself by running With TWC you’ll see all different available speeds throughout the day but with GL your speed is the same morning, noon and night! Plus no electromagnetic interference since it is light on fiber.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 at 10:14 AM @ The Truth said...

How am I defending 'local government ability to spy'? My original question to you was 'why would the city government use Greenlight to spy on its citizens?'. I'm still waiting on your answer to that.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 at 1:55 AM The Truth said...

Why are you defending local government ability to spy?

Monday, July 28, 2014 at 8:45 PM @ The Truth said...

And why would the city government use Greenlight to spy on its citizens? Since you appear to be cozying up to conspiracy theories, let's see this one all the way through. I'll have my aluminum foil ready, waiting for your response.

Monday, July 28, 2014 at 12:45 AM To truth said...

Omg, such negativity and paranoia. The city provides an outstanding service that is income positive. They do not spy nor would they want to see what you watch on tv, get help.

Monday, July 28, 2014 at 12:07 AM The Truth said...

If the city government isn't using Greenlight to spy on its citizens now, it doesn't mean they won't in the future. Greenlight gives them the means to do exactly that.

Sunday, July 27, 2014 at 1:07 PM Paranoia? said...

Seems like we have some that think the city spies on what you are watching on TV. Really? Come on people.

Sunday, July 27, 2014 at 9:11 AM @ The Truth said...

If Greenlight's illegal, then I'm very much enjoying the illegal service.

Sunday, July 27, 2014 at 12:52 AM To the naysayers said...

You people are the reason why our our country continues to fall behind. Richest nation on Earth yet we're ranked 36th in education, 46th in individual freedom, and 35th in child poverty (these are stats from 2007, so no Barry-bashing here folks) - but you people want to bicker over a municipal system that would (if not so limited) generate millions of dollars in revenue, create hundreds of jobs, and make this community the epicenter of the Southeast's tech sector. Communities from around the country are mimicking Greenlight, and we're missing out on the potential to cash in on it because of a bunch of regressive Corporatists - you're not Conservatives or Libertarians, you're Corporatists - are so afraid of "socialism" that they reject darn near anything municipal. I get that new things you barely understand are frightening, but really, you people should just accept that not only do things change, but that change is inevitable.

Sunday, July 27, 2014 at 9:23 PM To What Was That Sound said...

"Elected Officials of Wilson continue to abuse its governing powers by illegally spying on residents using the Greenlight technology without having to get permission first from the proper authorities. What was just said, Citizens, you're being spied on illegally by the City of Wilson."
Oh, look. Someone who owns a tinfoil hat.

Saturday, July 26, 2014 at 6:07 PM The Truth said...

Greenlight is illegal.

Saturday, July 26, 2014 at 11:18 AM Only TWC said...

Here's why we prefer TWC. They have promptly responded every time we have called, either sending a technician out or providing telephone assistance for internet. Also, we requested that out cable be put underground, and they quickly complied.
On the other hand, Greenlight came around initially and started digging to place their fiber optic cable in our neighborhood, creating a mess and without speaking to any homeowners. Then I was alarmed one day to see men walking through our yard. These were Greenlight employees walking across our property to get to a neighbor's yard who had Greenlight. When the same thing happened a second time, I called the city to complain because the Greenlight employees seemed to have no respect for private property.

Saturday, July 26, 2014 at 9:58 AM What was that sound said...

The City of Wilson illegally built and expanded Greenlight just in case you didn't know as they held no bond referendum for the citizens to vote yea or nay for this service. Elected Officials of Wilson continue to abuse its governing powers by illegally spying on residents using the Greenlight technology without having to get permission first from the proper authorities. What was just said, Citizens, you're being spied on illegally by the City of Wilson.

Saturday, July 26, 2014 at 6:28 AM @ Only TWC said...

Why do you prefer TWC over Greenlight? Have you ever had to deal with customer service? Anyone who has knows that Greenlight excels in that department, and you know that your money will remain in our city/county, instead of a behemoth corporation who stifles competition so they can jack up the prices for lesser service.

Friday, July 25, 2014 at 8:06 PM Only TWC said...

Our neighborhood has Greenlight, but we prefer TWC. I'm all for the FCC shutting down Greenlight! Wilson should have followed the rules instead of trying to bend them for its own profit.

Friday, July 25, 2014 at 5:31 PM COUNTY RESIDENT said...


Friday, July 25, 2014 at 8:12 AM Citizen said...

I love some Greenlight, and hope anyone who can get it will drop the likes of Time Warner and support our local economy. They provide great service, and I wish them nothing but the best!

Friday, July 25, 2014 at 4:15 AM
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