Greenlight Customer Service Manager Crawford Bolton signs up Vontina Green for high-speed internet services being offered at low cost for Wilson Housing Authority residents. Olivia Neeley | Times
By Olivia Neeley
Times Staff Writer
Nearly two months ago, the city announced a new partnership with the Wilson Housing Authority to provide affordable Greenlight broadband service to public housing residents.
Now, that initiative is up and running with officials holding recent meetings about the program with public housing residents.
“We’ve been pushing through to make this happen since the announcement,’ said Kelly Vick, WHA president and chief executive officer. “It’s really been a smooth process.”
The partnership was unveiled during National Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro’s visit to Wilson in October. Castro praised the initiative aimed to enhance the quality of life for all residents by offering high-speed internet for everyone.
The WHA has been rolling out the program in phases to different areas, including Whitfield and most recently Starmount. Meetings were held in these areas where Greenlight staff were present, assisting residents in signing up.
“It will be offered to every resident by the first of the year,” Vick said.
Will Aycock, Greenlight general manager, said the new partnership between Greenlight and the WHA represents a major step forward in bridging the digital divide in Wilson.
“Because of this partnership, more students will be able to be online in their homes and more adults will be able to take advantage of online job training and application tools,” Aycock said. “The partnership will help create the future connected workforce required for an innovation economy to thrive in Wilson. In addition, the partnership connects more customers to the community network, thereby increasing the return on the community’s investment.”
Greenlight provides high-speed internet for a minimal cost, while the housing authority provides residents with a router. There is no obligation to sign up, but for those who do, the housing authority will bill the amount to residents’ rent statements each month.
“We didn’t want to have a lot of upfront costs,” Vick said about WHA providing the routers for free.
Vick said students need internet now to complete their homework assignments. Internet access connects people to a 21st-century global economy, officials said.
The WHA first began its partnership with Greenlight by providing free internet access at its community centers so that students would be able to complete their homework.
And they decided to expand that mission.
“We wanted to make it available,” he said. “We wanted kids to be able to have it at home.”
‘IT’S GOING TO HELP HER WITH SCHOOL’
Ca-Voncha’ Pearce and her mother, Vontina Green, attended a recent meeting about the new service.
“It’s great,” said Pearce, who is a North Carolina Wesleyan College student double majoring in business and accounting. “I can get my college work done.”
Pearce said she currently uses her cellphone as a hotspot to connect her computer to the internet. But that can eat up a lot of data and cause overage fees each month.
“You’ve got to be real conservative with it,” she said about her cellphone data plan. Pearce said a lot of times she takes her computer with her to school to download large files for class. But with the new initiative, she’ll be able to do that from home.
“It’s going to help her with school,” her mother said. “It’s more for her than me.”
While the announcement is a typical bulk customer agreement for Greenlight, nationally it is of major significance because many private telecom companies are not currently offering similar arrangements, city officials said.
During Castro’s visit, he said Wilson’s initiative resembles HUD’s visionary pilot program, ConnectHome, which connects affordable and public housing communities nationwide to the internet.
“We have the advantage because of community broadband,” Vick said.
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