A few weeks back I wrote about how the Sixth Circuit Court Ruling forced Wilson, North Carolina’s municipal broadband service, Greenlight, to discontinue its service to customers outside of the municipality, like Pinetops, in order to comply with state law. The decision meant the 1,300 residents of Pinetops would lose all access to the internet.
Just this week as Wilson Greenlight prepared to pull the plug on its surrounding communities, town officials found a loophole: for the next six months they will provide broadband to existing customers in these communities for free. The idea is that it will give residents more time to find an alternative, but town officials also hope that in the next six months they can convince elected officials to change the law that prevents municipal ISPs from selling internet to non-residents.
While the short term fix is not ideal for Wilson’s bank account, the thought of completely disconnecting their neighbors seemed like a far worse alternative. As Wilson Mayor Bruce Rose said, “Taking broadband service from the people of Pinetops would have been a terrible blow, especially when they are still recovering from Hurricane Matthew.”
The people of Pinetops are nothing short of appreciate towards their kind neighbors. Greenlight brought economic development and progress to the small town making it all the more upsetting when they heard they would lose it. Wilson’s efforts to fight the law has not gone unnoticed says Pinetops Town Commissioner Suzanne CokerCraig, “Greenlight means a lot to the future of our town and we appreciate Wilson for not only bringing it to us, but for fighting to keep it.”
Unfortunately, if legislation in overturning the law does not progress in the next six months, Wilson will have to discontinue the free service. For now, the best thing the people of Wilson and Pinetops can do is continue to petition and plead their case to local and state officials.