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Ultra-fast Broadband Internet Service Heading for Winston


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AT&T Inc. could be the provider of a fiber broadband network for ultrafast Internet services here and elsewhere in North Carolina, company and local officials said. The company said it is in “advanced discussions” with the North Carolina Next Generation Network to provide transmission speeds of up to one gigabit per second.
The Next Generation effort includes Winston-Salem, Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and such universities as Wake Forest, Duke and UNC Chapel Hill.

Winston-Salem City Manager Lee Garrity said that the selection of AT&T would be on the agenda for city council committee discussions this week.

“It will provide much faster speeds for our business community and medical community as economic development tools,” Garrity said. Garrity said the council would be asked to endorse the selection of AT&T and help smooth the path for the company’s effort to bring the ultrafast Internet service here.

Company officials said that the service would be 10 times faster than the fastest consumer broadband available today in the communities taking part. A speed of one gigabit means that someone could download 25 songs in one second, a television show in three seconds and an online movie in less than 36 seconds, according to AT&T.

Plans include options allowing public hotspots for the new service and connections to business buildings, the company said. The company would also provide high-speed Internet at selected affordable-housing complexes and up to 3,000 homes. AT&T said that if the governing bodies of the Next Generation communities ratify the agreement, next steps would include meetings in the communities to work out the details of installing the service.

Tracy Futhey, who chairs the steering committee for the Next Generation effort, said in a statement that the participants are encouraged by AT&T’s interest in delivering the service. “This kind of private sector investment is essential to ensure our regions remain competitive and at the forefront of next-generation applications that are important to all sectors of the economy,” Futhey said. FROM THE WSJ.

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With the Winston-Salem City Council's approval at their April 21 meeting, "AT&T is evaluating the city to determine what areas to build out the network first,” said Dennis Newman, Winston-Salem’s top information officer. “They will be doing a marketing campaign of some sort that will help them determine the amount of demand in any single neighborhood, and balance the demand with the cost to build out in that neighborhood. They have said that they expect to be offering services in Winston-Salem by the end of this calendar year.”

Newman said that getting the service would depend on where AT&T decides to put the fiber-optic cables that deliver it. The city isn’t investing in the system — those costs will be borne by AT&T and the cable will belong to the company — but the city is agreeing to streamline the process of working through permits, inspections and other red tape.

“There are a lot of services that the city will need to provide in terms of permitting and right-of-way access,” Newman said. “Every time they cut a street it results in a permit — it requires a review, approval and inspection and all that has to be done in an orderly way. The city has agreed to respond in seven days. We have agreed to accept electronic submissions and approvals of the requests, and those will make a difference in how quickly they will be able to build out.”

Winston-Salem’s deal with AT&T wouldn’t stop other companies from offering the ultrafast service, officials said. One limit AT&T does face is that it must have service in place in at least some areas within two years, or the agreement with N.C. Next Generation Network and its member cities is void. AT&T also is promising to do more to ease the so-called digital divide between wealthier and poorer neighborhoods. The company must provide the ultrafast Internet service to 100 community centers distributed across the member cities, and provide a limited number of free connections to small- and mid-size businesses. AT&T would also provide some free lower-speed Internet connections to residents of a limited number of low-income apartment units.

One advantage the Next Generation effort brings is creating a way to streamline procedures among the various cities involved, said John Hodges-Copple, regional planning director with the Triangle J Council of Governments, the Raleigh-area agency that is helping the process.

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Officials in Winston-Salem have ratified a formal agreement with AT&T meant to speed the telecom company’s deployment of ultrafast broadband connections in the city, according to AT&T. The agreement stems from work by the N.C. Next Generation Network consortium, which took proposals from multiple providers interested in building fiber networks capable of delivering internet speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second, which is about 100 times faster than typical broadband speeds. AT&T’s proposal was selected for consideration in Winston-Salem as well as Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Cary, Durham and Raleigh.

No cash incentives are involved in the agreement. The city agrees to respond quickly to AT&T’s permit and inspection requests during construction of the network and to help it promote the service. AT&T retains the right the decide when and where to offer the service based on market demand, but it also agrees to provide some service to low-income housing in the various NCNGN cities.

“We’re thrilled that Winston-Salem will be in the next round of cities for AT&T’s rollout of its U-verse with GigaPower,” said Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines. “Our city has a well-deserved reputation as a technology and medical leader and a network of this magnitude will help take the work underway in both those areas to new levels of innovation and achievement.”  AT&T is currently studying anticipated demand to decide on a strategy and timeline for rolling out the service, but when the plan was announced in April AT&T officials hoped to have some service available by the end of the year. The company has said it is also considering offering its gigabit service in Greensboro and Charlotte.

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The WSJ reports:


The city of Winston-Salem today posted a list of 63 potential business and community sites where AT&T could place its ultra high-speed Internet service. The city and AT&T signed a deal June 10 for the service, known as GigaPower. The list of potential sites represents the latest step in the initiative. The agreement requires AT&T to provide up to 20 free Internet connections to community sites with a one-time installation cost of $300 to $500. There have been 23 centers chosen to date for consideration. Another 20 connections would be provided to small- to mid-size businesses, with no obligation to purchase services. There are 40 businesses chosen for consideration. The service on the all-fiber-optic network would not be wireless. Every city ward is represented among the chosen community centers and businesses.

“We plan to start the build process within weeks each time a respective community ratified the agreement,” AT&T spokesman Josh Gelinas said. “The permitting and build plan is in motion in Winston-Salem.” Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines said the deal would help enhance the city's reputation as a technology and medical leader. “We are pleased that we are one of the cities that they are moving forward with,” Joines said. “I think we have worked hard to try to position ourselves as a supporter, and that hits into the overall growth of our city.” The company also is providing some lower-speed Internet connections in a limited number of apartment complexes in low-income areas.


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