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Wireless broadband service could begin rolling out in June

LOUISBURG -- A technology company said some pockets of Franklin County and some residents could be in line for Internet service by the end of June or start of July.

However, Alan Fitzpatrick, the CEO of Open Broadband LLC, advised eager customers to be patient as the Charlotte-based company navigates a four-year rollout plan.

"Projects like this take a while," Fitzpatrick told commissioners and the public during the board's May 18 meeting.

"You don't just build a network," he said. "It takes a while to build and turn up customers.

"And, the process is not first in, first out," he said, noting that about 875 signed up to be on the waitlist for service.

"Someone may have been first to sign up on the waitlist doesn't mean they'll get service, first," he said. "It depends on where they live, which sector they're in and how easily we can serve them. It's not going to be a matter of who was first on the list."

Open Broadband has divided the county into six sectors and plans to do two sectors a year starting in 2020. In 2023, they would get the remaining spots they could to cover the county.

The first two sectors surround a three- to five-mile radius around the tower on White Level Road and a three- to five-mile radius around a tower on Cone Drive north of Franklinton.

"... At this point, it looks like we are going to have our first customers up by the end of June," Fitzpatrick told the board, noting that the second sector in the Cone Drive area will more than likely be expedited.

"... In our planning process, we believe we can pull the second sector up in time and do it almost parallel with the first sector."

Beyond those two sectors, Open Broadband plans to have service installed at Owens Park in the same time frame to serve the parks and recreation department.

Wifi service there would also cover the entire 100-plus acres of the park, Fitzpatrick said.

Beyond that, Open Broadband would then look to offer residential service to those who live around the park.

"We want to get the park done right away so we can have it available to as many people as possible, quickly," Fitzpatrick said. "Then, we'll start turning up [residential customers]."

While Open Broadband was brought in to focus on those unserved and underserved by broadband, their four-year rollout plan intends to touch almost every part of Franklin County.

Still, Commissioner Michael Schriver made a plea that the service focus on the northeastern part of the county.

The Northeast Franklin County Revitalization Committee -- a grassroots group dedicated to bringing resources, interest and development to the region -- has made improved broadband service one of its goals for that part of the county.

"I would hope that, as we move forward, we put a more specified interest in the northeast section to be sure that, for lack of a better way of saying it, we give them first dibs on our resources in this program as it's rolled out," Schriver said.

Commission Chair Sidney Dunston and Commission Vice Chair Shelley Dickerson noted that White Level and Owens Park were parts of the northeast Franklin County community.

Commissioner Mark Speed, who is also a member of the Northeast group, wondered if the towers that Open Broadband has already secured would be enough to cover all of the northeastern part of the county.

The answer is no, Fitzpatrick said.

"I mentioned we were going to need to put in hub sites to broadcast the signal to other pockets [in the county]," Fitzpatrick said. "That's what we're going to have to come up with, really, around the entire county, but the northeast in particular."

Overall, Fitzpatrick said Open Broadband will be practical in its rollout and intends to reach a wide swath of Franklin County.

But, he wanted to be clear.

"We are using fixed wireless technology," he said. "It will not go through a hill, it will not go through the earth, but we can serve a lot of people.

"But, there are going to be some people that we just can't serve based on where they live ... if they live sort of in a gully between hills, we may have a difficult time getting service to them.

"I didn't want anyone thinking this was a ubiquitous, 100 percent coverage technology," he said. "There are going to be people we can't serve."

Where they can serve, though, Fitzpatrick said, they will be able to do so at speeds and prices that are better than current competitors.

And, while the county has agreed to provide Open Broadband with $188,000 each year, for four years to aid in the rollout, the company doesn't have the financial resources to make that rollout happen sooner.

Beyond that, Fitzpatrick said, there are just some things that -- even with more money -- could happen sooner.

"If we had more funding, yes, we could pick up the pace," he said. "Just recognize, it's similar to saying, 'if you had nine women, you could have a baby in one month as opposed to nine months.

"There are just some things you can't necessarily pull off faster."

To sign up on the waitlist, sign up for the newsletter or get more information, visit openbb.net, or call (919) 205-5400.

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Members Opinions:
May 23, 2020 at 3:15pm
A map is shown during the meeting with 875 pinpoints representing people who have signed-up forĀ this service's wait-list. I am curious as to how many of these peopleĀ are already in Spectrum and CenturyLink served areas.

Here is where the map is shown in the meeting:


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