Statewide: Eastern region, March 2015

 In 2015-03

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Red light or Greenlight
Google attracted national attention for promising Charlotte and Raleigh broadband Internet service, in about two years, at the gigabit speed that Wilson’s city-owned system has offered since July 2013. The town’s Greenlight service started in 2008 and has attracted more than 7,100 customers for a 35% market share, General Manager Will Aycock says. It would have more if Greenlight could expand outside city limits, a move blocked by state law. Wilson and Chattanooga, Tenn., which also has a city-affiliated broadband provider, asked the Federal Communications Commission last summer to overturn state rules that limit service areas. The request set off a legal battle with cable companies that oppose publicly owned Internet service, which they contend impedes the free market and discourages private investment. A decision was expected as soon as Feb. 26. Wilson leaders wanted greater competition with incumbent Time Warner Cable, prompting the city to borrow $38 million to build and run the service, according to a June 2014 study by two professors at New York Law School. The debt should be paid off within nine years, and Standard & Poor’s raised its ratings on the bonds to A+, a solid investment-grade level. The upgrade occurred though expenses exceeded revenues by about $1.2 million total over the past three years. “We’ve had people move here because the infrastructure is available,” Aycock says. Among the companies crediting Wilson’s service for their expansions during the past year are visual-effects studio Exodus FX and search-marketing firm Regency Interactive. Many small businesses and self-employed people who rely on high-speed Internet also have benefited from the city’s effort, which includes free Wi-Fi in the downtown district. “There’s a clear indication that there’s demand,” including for its gigabit service that costs $100 a month, Aycock says.

Update: Following publication of this article, the Federal Communications Commission voted to override state laws that limit service areas for broadband networks, clearing the way for Wilson to expand its Greenlight system.


Briefs

HOPE MILLSPrincipal Solar plans to build a 78.5-megawatt solar farm here by early 2016. The Dallas-based company says the $173 million project will be the largest solar operation east of the Rocky Mountains. Duke Energy Progress, a subsidiary of Charlotte-based Duke Energy, has signed a 15-year agreement to buy power generated by the project.

WILMINGTON —  Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas was awarded a contract valued at more than $100 million to supply fuel to a Brownville, Neb., nuclear-power station through January 2034. Majority-owned by Fairfield, Conn.-based General Electric, GNF is a joint venture with Tokyo-based companies Hitachi and Toshiba that was formed in 2000 to manufacture fuel for nuclear reactors.

GREENVILLEArroGen will add 138 jobs to its existing 12 over four years at a local forensics lab. The jobs will pay an average annual salary of more than $60,000, higher than Pitt County’s $39,845. Greenville was awarded a $540,000 grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation to buy lab equipment that it will lease back to the company’s Center for Advanced Forensics DNA Analysis, which opened in 2013.

WILMINGTON — Ted Spring resigned as president of Cape Fear Community College in January after about two years in the position following questions over expense reimbursements. Amanda Lee, vice president for instructional services since 2010, was named interim president.

JACKSONVILLE  — Boca Raton, Fla.-based Biotest Pharmaceuticals plans to add 50 jobs at its local plasma-collection center. Opened in February, the 15,000-square-foot center is the company’s second local site. A subsidiary of Germany-based Biotest, the company employs more than 900 people at 18 plasma-collection centers across the nation.

WILMINGTONWilmington International Airport will add two nonstop flights to New York. American Airlines, which already offers one daily flight to New York, added another in February, and Delta Air Lines plans to add one beginning June 5. Delta also plans to add a nonstop flight to Atlanta on May 1, increasing the total number of flights there to six.

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