Keeping Tabs on the Digital Divide

The LinkAge

Internet for All: Pinetops, North Carolina


Watch video here https://youtu.be/IT9KXeHeXIQ

Pinetops, North Carolina is fighting to keep its high-speed Internet service, and they need your help.

At EveryoneOn, we believe that all people in the United States should have access to the Internet and the opportunity it brings. In Wilson County, NC and the nearby Pinetops, the fight for continued service has been under way for years.

Background:

Pinetops, a small town of about 1,300 residents whose median household income is around $24,000 per year, sits just beyond the Wilson County border in Edgecombe County.

Earlier this year, Greenlight, a municipal broadband network in neighboring Wilson County, extended service to Pinetops. The high-speed Internet service serves more than 200 residential and commercial customers in Pinetops, as well as provides broadband access to schools and public buildings.

The Law:

However, under North Carolina law, the Greenlight service isn’t even supposed to be offered. Here’s why:

In 2011, the North Carolina General Assembly’s session enacted legislation that allowed municipal broadband networks under very limited circumstances. Wilson County turned on its fiber to the home service in 2008, but intense lobbying shepherded a state law that limited Wilson Greenlight to only serving the city and Wilson County.

However, in 2015, the Federal Communications Commission ruled that a federal law encouraging the extension of broadband into underserved areas preempted North Carolina’s law. This ruling allowed Wilson to provide broadband to customers within its electric service area, a five-county region. This includes Pinetops.

But, a federal court ruling in August 2016 said that the FCC exceeded its authority in preempting the North Carolina statutes. The 2011 North Carolina law was now back in place, which requires limiting the service to Wilson County only or risk shutting down the entire system.

Service was scheduled to be cut off on October 28, 2016, but thanks to a last-minute vote by Wilson City Council, limited service will continue for customers outside of Wilson County at no charge for up to six months.

Next Steps:

Community members and other advocates must now work together to change existing laws that have threatened the service.

The importance of high-speed Internet service in Pinetops became very apparent during the recent floods that affected the town. Many residents were forced out of their homes, and the Internet served as a way to connect with other members of their family.

Hector F. Oviedo Hernandez, a current college student who has family in Pinetops, said that his family used the Internet during the flood to look up services, but to also contact family who were without phone service post-flood.  But, that is only one way the Internet has helped him.

“The Internet has changed the world completely. Everything has gone from paper and pencil to electronically in school,” he said.

James Cappeletti, a Pinetops police officer, school teacher, and father of seven, said high-speed Internet service has been life-changing for his family. Previously, his family couldn’t do multiple things–like school work or watching a movie–online at the same time. This lead to splitting time online, which put a dent in family interaction.

“Because of Greenlight…I know some people will think this sounds funny…but my family actually gets more time together,” he said.

No community should lose their high-speed Internet service. And, this is exactly what will happen in Pinetops, North Carolina unless lawmakers and policy leaders do something.

Here is how you can help:

  • SHARE this blog post and video on social media and across your networks.
  • Contact state and local leaders to voice your support for Pinetops. Contact information for Pinetops representatives and advocate are at the bottom of this post.
  • Add your voice of support for digital inclusion for all. At EveryoneOn, we support all efforts to provide Internet access for all people in America. Interested in adding your voice to our choir of support? Contact us at info@everyoneon.org today.

Be an advocate. The community of Pinetops should not be left behind.

Take action today.

Contacts:

Representative Tim Moore, Speaker

N.C. House of Representatives

16 W. Jones Street, Room 2304

Raleigh, NC 27601-1096

919-733-3451

Tim.Moore@ncleg.net


Senator Harry Brown, Majority Leader

N.C. Senate

300 N. Salisbury Street, Room 300-B

Raleigh, NC 27603-5925

(919) 715-3034

Harry.Brown@ncleg.net


Senator Phil Berger, President Pro Tempore

N.C. Senate

16 W. Jones Street, Room 2007

Raleigh, NC 27601-2808

(919) 733-5708

Phil.Berger@ncleg.net


Suzanne Coker Craig

Commissioner, Pinetops Town Council

919-606-3265

suzcoker@gmail.com


Catharine Rice

Coalition for Local Internet Choice-NC

Catharine@LocalNetChoice.org

 


Sarah Graham is the marketing and communications manager for EveryoneOn. Contact her at sarah@everyoneon.org.