Last week, community leaders, local ISPs, residents, and policy experts gathered in three North Carolina communities — Albemarle, Fuquay-Varina, and Jacksonville — for a conversation about improving local connectivity. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), the North Carolina League of Municipalities (NCLM), and NC Hearts Gigabit organized this series of broadband meetings, called Let’s Connect, which aimed to spark conversations about the need for better broadband access and potential solutions for the region.
Each meeting opened with a welcome from local municipal leaders, followed by a presentation from Chris Mitchell, Director of ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks initiative, and a panel discussion between local leaders and innovative ISPs. Panelists talked about the need for better broadband to support everything from economic development to agriculture to health care, and why it’s necessary to bring all voices to the table in order to solve this issue. Mitchell noted:
“We electrified the country with private investment, municipal investment, and cooperative investment. That’s what we’ll need to bring Internet access to everyone.”
One of the biggest takeaways was the need for the North Carolina state government to more explicitly authorize public-private partnerships, which would allow municipalities to invest in broadband infrastructure and then lease it to private companies that provide service.At the end of each night, attendees were invited to ask questions and share their stories about the need for better connectivity. One local resident shared his frustration that his family’s only option for Internet access is satellite while his neighbor has broadband, illustrating the inconsistency of broadband access in the state. All North Carolinians deserve affordable, reliable, high-quality Internet access, and it’s our hope that the conversations that began at these meetings will result in meaningful progress toward that goal.
Watch an archived video of the Jacksonville event:
Here’s the event in Fuquay-Varina:
We also had a chance to visit with two of our Let’s Connect! panelists and have them on the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Christopher spoke with Greg Coltrain from RiverStreet Networks:
And Alan Fitzpatrick of Open Broadband also joined Christopher for some one-on-one conversation:
If you are interested in hosting a similar event in your community, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Thank you to our sponsor Ting who helped make Let’s Connect possible!
Photos by Katie Kienbaum