Meet Will Aycock, general manager for Wilson’s Greenlight network. For the last decade, he’s helped grow the city’s sizable asset, its gigabit fiber internet technology, attracting national recognition, innovation, and much more.
At this week’s RIoT XXX: Smart and Connected Gigabit Cities, he talked about building “smarter gigabit cities” through “collaboration”. WRAL TechWire’s Chantal Allam recently tracked him down to find out more about what he means, and the latest.
- Tell me about Greenlight, how it got started and its mission.
Greenlight is the City of Wilson’s fiber-to-the-home network. We have been in operation for 10 years and currently serve nearly 10,000 customers. We provide internet services to major employers, small businesses, non-profits, schools, residents, and the City of Wilson itself. Our primary missions include supporting the economic health of Wilson, improving the delivery of other city services, and enhancing the quality of life of our citizens.
- The City of Wilson has been recognized nationally as a leading example of leveraging technology for citizen services. Why is it so important to provide community-owned broadband to local citizens?
We would not say it is important to provide community-owned broadband to local citizens, but rather it is important to have a strategy to make sure your community is not left behind from a communications infrastructure perspective. There are many models to approach this challenge and each community should choose the one that best fits there needs.
- How far has Wilson come as a city since Greenlight was launched?
The City has continued to grow since its launch, and we’re particularly fortunate to be one of the few cities in our peer group that has gained population over the past several years. We’ve also seen significant redevelopment and investment in our downtown, while our corporate park continues to attract new employers. These investments include BB&T’s new facility in downtown, expansion of the Fresinius Kabi facility, and construction of the Neopac plant in our corporate park, to name a few. We have also seen significant modernization of our utility infrastructure through deployment of automated meter infrastructure, which uses Greenlight as its communications backhaul. Not to mention the enhancement of our parks and recreation system through Gillette Athletic Complex, Lake Wilson, and the soon-to-open Greater Wilson Rotary Club Park. Of course, you can’t mention good things in Wilson without talking about Barton College and their growth as they add programs, renovate, and realize the potential of being a Gigabit campus. None of these accomplishments are because of Greenlight specifically, but rather Greenlight is part of a team both within the City and across the broader community that all work together to build our future.
- What does Wilson still need to work on to become a ‘smart’ city of the future?
We need more partnerships and collaboration. To fully realize our potential, we will need industry, non-profits, educational institutions, and fellow municipalities working together to move North Carolina forward.
- Any special projects that Greenlight or the City is working on to accelerate the gigabit ecosystem?
Our biggest effort at the moment is building the GigEast Wilson Hub. This will be a physical location for our innovation ecosystem where we hope to convene all of the parties mentioned above to work on these issues.
- Looking ahead, where would you like to see the city of Wilson in the next few years?
We see Wilson being a focal point for micropolitan smart city efforts that is not secondary to Raleigh-Durham, but rather a part of the North Carolina technology and innovation ecosystem. To make progress, we must think of each region of our state as part of a whole that works to move us all forward.