Buggs Island? Bug off!

Published 9:34 am Friday, May 10, 2013

Recently, the NTIA partially lifted its suspension on the government grant of $18.9 million federal stimulus dollars to Buggs Island to bring so-called high speed Internet to rural Southampton County.

But it should have never been given that money in the first place.

If Buggs Island ever does manage to deliver on their service, it will be both outdated in terms of Internet speed and reliability and obsolete as a form of communications by two years before the first sale even happens. It’s kind of like connecting a VCR to an 80-inch LED TV to play your favorite movies.

Residents will be only getting yet another under-delivering, over-priced, terrible option to their Internet connection platter to go along with 3G and Satellite.

But what other choice do they have? Companies such as Time-Warner and Verizon make more money from you by overcharging you for poor 3G home connections or reselling satellite packages than they do properly expanding their cable and DSL services to your area. They lead you to believe you have no other real options. They do this to create the illusion of scarcity — the illusion that Internet data is a limited resource and that costs are rising and that your only option is their wireless services. They also use this extra revenue from you to be able to offer lower prices in the cities where they actually do have competing services. Feeling used?

The government has a few real options to help. One, crack down on these monopolistic practices. Two, create community Internet services. Consider the case study of Wilson, N.C. The residents were fed up with local cable companies who refused to expand service in their area, so they created their own fiber optic network, Greenlight. Greenlight is offering gigabit Internet connections to residents. Gigabit? That’s over 650 times the speed of the basic Buggs Island package: a package that requires a two-year contract, a roughly $120 setup fee and costs you about $40 a month for service and equipment rental. Greenlight also provides free public Wi-Fi to the downtown area.

How is this possible? The cable companies said capacity was full. They couldn’t expand! Time-Warner and Embarq (now Centurylink) immediately lobbied to have such community-owned services outlawed in North Carolina. Incredible.

I don’t know if such an option is viable for our area, but I do know that Buggs Island is not the solution and a waste of taxpayer money. Instead of trying to boost smaller businesses like Buggs Island in some half-hearted, missing-the-point gesture, they should be leveling the playing field to allow for real solutions to evolve naturally as the market dictates.

Ryan Outlaw is the graphic artist, webmaster and resident technology guru at The Tidewater News. He can be reached at ryan.outlaw@tidewaternews.com.