Wake Forest officials are planning for how improve broadband internet service

sbarr@newsobserver.comJanuary 15, 2014 

— Town officials are in the early stages of discussions about how to bring the highest quality broadband Internet service to residents and local businesses.

Roe O’Donnell, deputy town manager, said the goal is to make sure the town is in the best position it can be to draw those who are seeking fast, consistent Internet access.

During a meeting last week, Joe Freddoso, head of broadband communications nonprofit MCNC, told the Board of Commissions that the discussion is an essential one.

“Towns that have this infrastructure are going to attract economic development. They’re going to attract residents,” he said.

MCNC operates a statewide network that provides broadband communications technology services and support to K-12 school districts, higher-education campuses and research institutions. The group is not involved in municipal service.

The questions Wake Forest must grapple with are how to improve the local infrastructure and who will provide services using that infrastructure.

There are some limitations to what the town can do. A 2011 state law set rules for how local governments develop broadband networks that could compete with commercial firms.

Those rules mean that Wake Forest would, in all likelihood, need to work with existing providers such as Time Warner Cable or CenturyLink to make big changes.

Freddoso recommended town officials meet with those companies, known as incumbent providers, to see what might be possible.

Freddoso also said the town is positioned to boost service with many assets, including its ownership of utility poles where fiber-optic wire can be hung, a high population density and the presence of industries that want improvements.

The town will also have to deal with challenges though, such as the fact that multiple incumbents operate in the town, he said.

After the presentation last week, the board members said they would consider the topic at their retreat on Feb. 6 and 7.

Mayor Vivian Jones said that as the discussions progress, officials may start a task force to make recommendations about how to proceed.

Barr: 919-836-4952

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