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Greenlight Community Broadband is slated to discontinue service to Pinetops by July 12, but the sale of infrastructure in the town will mean residents won’t miss out on high-speed broadband.
“Everyone I know who has Greenlight is very sad that this is happening,” said former Pinetops commissioner Suzanne Coker Craig. “Everyone has been extremely satisfied with not only the speed of the connection, but the customer service. The city of Wilson has served us extremely well, and we have no need to change.”
However, the change in providers was necessitated by the addition of Suddenlink service in Pinetops and a 2017 law stipulating the public provider has 30 days to stop service after a competitive provider connects to Greenlight’s customers in rural Nash and Edgecombe counties. On June 13, the notification was sent by Suddenlink, and Greenlight sought a buyer for the fiber optic infrastructure.
“North Carolina leaders have long advocated for rural broadband access achieved through public-private partnerships,” said Will Aycock, Greenlight general manager. “We are pleased to be a party to providing a rural community the broadband access needed in today’s economy while executing the direction of our state’s leaders.”
Will Burge, National Network Holdings president, submitted a bid for $280,000 to purchase the system as part of an expansion into the state. Burge said the investment group owns several corporations across the country to provide broadband services to smaller communities but will operate as Locality Networks in Pinetops.
“Our service is extremely similar in other areas, so the easiest thing for ourselves and our customers is to keep all the packages and pricing the same as it is with Greenlight,” he said. “Nothing will change right now, but eventually we’ll add more packages and options.”
Wilson has 10 days to advertise for upset bids for the Pinetops system before finalizing the sale with National Network Holdings. Bids of at least $294,050 must be received by the city by July 5 to be considered.
“We’re dedicated to a smooth transition for our customers,” Aycock said.
Craig has been vocal about her support of Greenlight in Pinetops, not only advocating for it during the legislative battle, but also as a business customer at CuriosiTees Screen Printing.
“I’m disgusted with Suddenlink,” she said. “We were very pleased and still are pleased with our Greenlight service. Suddenlink for years has not given this town the time of day, and it seems like the only reason they are coming now is to kick Greenlight out.” Suddenlink’s infrastructure construction hasn’t gone over well either, creating issues by breaking water mains and digging up yards, she said.
Burge said Locality Networks will provide customer service support through a Raleigh call center and plans to hire employees in eastern North Carolina to handle issues call center staff can’t.
“We would like to have little or no change for the customers other than who answers the phone on our end,” he said.
Craig said she and many others have no plans to switch to Suddenlink.
“Suddenlink has known the need was here, but they weren’t willing to spend the money to serve us because they probably didn’t see the profit for them on paper,” she said. “I plan to hold out as long as I possibly can if there is an alternative to Suddenlink.”