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Wilson, N.C.'s Greenlight Broadband Network Attracts National Attention

The city's fiber optic network picked up national attention in a New York Times article as one of the few locations nationwide where the highest Internet speeds are available.

The city of Wilson, N.C.'s Greenlight high-speed, fiber-optic broadband network continues to attract national attention and is drawing people from the Triangle region and as far as Los Angeles.

The city's network picked up national attention last week in a Tuesday New York Times article as one of the few locations nationwide where the highest Internet speeds are available.

In the United States, only 7.7 percent of broadband subscribers have optical fiber connections, the fastest and highest quality available, according to the article. The service, which can provide upload and download speeds 100 times faster than what is traditionally offered, is also luring people to locate in cities, including Wilson; Lafayette, La.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Mount Vernon, Wash.

And it's the reason why Brad Kalinoski and Tinatsu Wallace moved from Los Angeles to Wilson, according to the article. The husband-and-wife team co-own Exodus FX, a company that provides special effects for commercials, television and feature films like "The Black Swan" and "Captain America."

"We were doing so much business that we had to have increased bandwidth, so we started looking around and found Wilson," Brad Kalinoski, who pays $150 a month for a dedicated fiber connection, told The Times.

Will Aycock, Greenlight Operations Manager, said the network has been a drawing card for the city. One city employee moved from the Triangle region to get high-speed Internet access.

"There are several stories like that," Aycock said. "We've already seen evidence of people wanting to move here where these types of services are available. We're definitely getting people moving here because of the network."

Greenlight's upload and download speeds start at 20 megabits per second, at a cost of $34.95 per month, and increase to the highest speed of 1 gigabit per second, at $149.95 a month.

Wilson was the first location in North Carolina to launch a citywide fiber-optic network in 2008.

One of the drivers for city officials was an interest in providing some of the latest technology to compete in a global market, to lure and retain business and industry and to provide residents with improved quality-of-life.

"We were in the first wave," Aycock said. "We were among the first municipalities to recognize how critical next generation services are to the health of the community. People are seeing us as a good example of the positives of this network."

The city of Wilson invested an initial $28 million to build the network after failed attempts to interest private companies to offer the high-speed service. Other municipalities, primarily rural towns, did the same.

The city's Greenlight network started offering service before legislation was passed that set new rules regarding competition between government and private companies. State law requires cities interested in starting broadband networks to have a public vote before seeking ways to finance the system and municipalities are required to pay the same taxes and fees private companies pay.

Similar laws have been passed in at least 20 states but are now under the microscope by the FCC, which is considering whether to overturn state laws so high-speed access can be more readily available nationwide.

City officials expect the service to continue to draw people to Wilson, especially those who need Greenlight's bandwidth and upload speeds.

"The upload streams are very important for creative work," Aycock said. "One of the impacts we'll see and are seeing is people who work in the creative class will want to move here to take advantage of the upload speeds.

"Another benefit we're seeing is the attention that's being generated for the community and how it shows Wilson as a leading community. I think it's pretty amazing that someone had to move from Los Angeles to Wilson to be able to work more productively."

Synthia Payne told the New York Times she moved from Denver to Kansas City, Kan., for a $70-a-month Google Fiber connection. She needed fast broadband to develop an app called Cyberjammer that allows musicians around the world to jam online and in real time.

The United States ranks in 14th place behind countries like Sweden, Japan, South Korea, Romania and Macau in fiber connectivity, according to the Times article.

©2014 The Wilson Daily Times (Wilson, N.C.)