WILSON’S LOCAL PRINT AND DIGITAL COMMUNITY INSTITUTION SINCE 1896

Gig East panelists: Broadband key to future growth

By Brie Handgraaf

Times Staff Writer
Posted 11/7/16

As the first city in the state to offer ultra-high speed internet access, it was fitting that nearly 200 people gathered Friday morning in downtown Wilson for “Gig East: Growing the Gigabit Ecosystem.”

The WRAL TechWire conference …

Sign up to keep reading — IT'S FREE!

In an effort to improve our website and enhance our local coverage, WilsonTimes.com has switched to a membership model. Fill out the form below to create a free account. Once you're logged in, you can continue using the site as normal. You should remain logged in on your computer or device as long as you don’t clear your browser history/cookies.

Gig East panelists: Broadband key to future growth

Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.

Posted
As the first city in the state to offer ultra-high speed internet access, it was fitting that nearly 200 people gathered Friday morning in downtown Wilson for “Gig East: Growing the Gigabit Ecosystem.”

The WRAL TechWire conference covered a gamut of topics, including how Greenlight Community Broadband’s fiber optic system helps the city better serve residents as well as how technology is being increasingly integrated into all areas of society.

“America will not be great if it does not have great broadband,” said Blair Levin, former chief of staff of the Federal Communications Commission. “You have it. Take advantage of it.”

Levin, who was the keynote speaker at the conference, said studies show that broadband access is increasingly important to people — second only to safe streets in what residents look for when choosing a community. Wilson was commended for investing in broadband, with Levin urging residents to support the spread of high speed internet infrastructure to rural North Carolinians.

Wilson City Manager Grant Goings said similar to the city’s water and power systems, Wilson was rejected for broadband infrastructure expansion, so officials set out to fill the void themselves and, in the process, became the first city in the state to have a fiber utility.

“We didn’t necessarily do it to be first,” he said. “We did it to not be left behind.”

WRAL TechWire editor Rick Smith said being proactive is essential to solving today’s problems with tomorrow’s technology.

“Since we don’t know what technology will be 20 or 30 years down the road, we can’t prepare students for a specific technology,” said Wilson Community College President Tim Wright. “But we can instill the mindset of lifelong education and a culture of flexibility along with the confidence to be ready to learn those new technologies when they come.”

During a discussion about industrial innovation, Sean Nugent and John Patelski joined Wright in discussing the role of technology in the changing workplace.

“Clearly, technology is having a major positive disruptive impact on the world we’re living in,” Patelski said.

Nugent said the shift toward automated transportation could force six to eight million people out of work, placing a great retraining burden on the country’s educational institutions. Meanwhile, Wright noted that 85 percent of the college’s student body take at least one online class during their degree program. He said it is imperative for instructors to utilize the internet not only to update the traditional correspondence curriculum, but make classes more effective through virtual interaction.

“By nature, it is a two-dimensional experience, but we want to make it as much of a 3-D experience as we can,” he said. “If you are training in welding or nursing, which is really hands-on, you want the virtual education experience to be as close to reality as we can get.”

Goings said Greenlight has been a draw for economic development of the area.

“Each of our top 10 employers use our network in some capacity,” he said. “I have a lot of examples of individuals and smaller businesses that have come to Wilson specifically because of our broadband network. With our larger employers, it has been a complementary feature, but we believe in the near future that this will be just as expected by employers as the water lines and highways.”

bhandgraaf@wilsontimes.com | 265-7821

Comments