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Pink Hill, N.C., Pushes for Tech Initiatives in Rural Areas

The small town is planning for a technology center and formed a Think Tank to obtain regional high-speed broadband.

(TNS) — Members of the Pink Hill community recently formed a Pink Hill Tech Think Tank to figure out how to turn Pink Hill into a small town tech community.

Susan Myers, Think Tank host, said the Think Tank is currently focused on three areas: utilizing the gigabyte technology available to transform the old Pink Hill School Media building into a Pink Hill Technology Center, obtaining regional high-speed broadband and facilitating a strategic plan for Pink Hill.

Pink Hill already has gigabyte internet in two buildings downtown, including the CenturyLink building which is scalable up to 10 gigabytes. Because of this, Myers said the Pink Hill community is ideal to take the lead in providing high speed broadband internet service.

“With gigabyte internet speed, sophisticated tasks can be performed from our technology center. In order to build downtown Pink Hill into a sustainable, walkable community, people need the ability to access high speed internet so that they can work and live in a small town,” Myers said.

The U.S. government defines high speed broadband as 25 megabits down and 2.5 megabits up.

“Many rural folks, if they are able to obtain internet, only have 2 megabits down,” Myers said.

The Pink Hill Wellness Center and the proposed Pink Hill Technology Center have 1,000 megabits down and 1,000 up.

Ben Knight, a Deep Run resident and manager of Chef and the Farmer, said the internet in rural areas is very limiting.

“I know on the farms a lot of the repairs for the software on equipment is done remotely and it takes three to four times as long because 3 megabits down is limiting,” Knight said.

While working with George Collier of N.C. Broadband Initiative, officials have found a system called Fixed Base Wireless.

“This system can be propagated via transmitters similar to cell phone systems, but dedicated to data instead of voice. The transmitter equipment can be installed on an existing cell tower or water tower, and made operational in a matter of months,” Myers said.

The N.C. Broadband Initiative was created in 2015 as a statewide resource for broadband access.

Collier said his department helps with first responder communications and classroom connectivity throughout the state.

Myers also mentioned placing the transmitters on the Pink Hill water tower but nothing is set in stone yet.

“It could cover between 80 and 300 square miles of low density housing and farms with a minimum of 25 gigabyte download and 2.5 gigabyte upload speeds, doing so at a fraction of the cost of laying new cable or fiber optic transmission lines,” Myers said.

Depending on which bandwidth is used, Fixed Base Wireless could reach out from five to 10 miles in all directions.

While the system is still in the works, Myers and other officials plan to provide fixed wireless in the community.

“If we cannot get a company to provide adequate fixed wireless, a group of us are prepared to form a new company to provide fixed wireless in our area,” Myers said.

Another reason rural communities like Pink Hill need high speed broadband is precision agriculture.

Precision agriculture utilizes drones, GPS on tractors and other technology to enable farmers to make more precise decisions on each square foot of plants.

Local farmer John Currin Howard said there is so much technology available to farmers but they can’t always access it in rural areas.

“There is a lot of technology out there, we just need access,” Howard said. “This would be a great opportunity if we could actually get it.”

Howard spoke about different monitoring systems that are available on agricultural equipment such as tractors and combines.

“The information from the equipment can transfer to a data bank and provide us as famers with more information about the animals or row crops,” Howard said.

Data collected by GPS units on top of tractors can give very exact land topography data. Myers said this is particularly important in Eastern North Carolina where farms have only three inches of topsoil on average.

“Even if some farmers may resist using the new technology, the banks will force the farmers to use this technology to be more efficient,” Myers said. “The excessive debts held by many farmers give the bankers and lenders far more control over farming decisions.

Myers said one barrier will be existing tractor drivers.

“Farmers have employed their tractor drivers for a lifetime and with the new technologies available for autonomous farming, these legacy employees will need to be retrained into the new systems,” she said.

The Think Tank created a “Greater Pink Hill Broadband Initiative” which has compiled a survey asking residents and businesses who live in an 18 mile radius of Pink Hill about their internet service or lack of internet service. The surveys are due by Jan. 30, 2017.

“We have received over 500 completed surveys,” Myers said. “Responses have been overwhelming in favor of a better internet service. Ninety percent are unhappy with current service or lack of service.”

Currently, 60 percent of those who took the survey have children in homes with school-issued iPads but do not have any or adequate internet for their kids to do their homework, Myers said.

The survey can be found online at or in paper form at the following businesses throughout the Pink Hill area: Pink Hill Chiropractic, Pink Hill Dentistry, Pink Hill Elementary, Pink Hill Library, Pink Hill Medical, Pink Hill Pharmacy, Pink Hill Town Hall, Pink Hill Wellness, B.F. Grady School, Byrd’s, Duplin Times, Fat Baby’s, Four Seasons Consignment, H&H Farm Supply, Jones Furniture, Kornegay Insurance, La Estrellita, Pleasant Hill Grill, Realo Pharmacy in Pink Hill, R Mart in Albertson, Salon on Broadway, Sassy Cuts, Scott Insurance, Southern Bank in Deep Run and Turner-White Photography.

©2017 The Free Press (Kinston, N.C.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.