This Broadband News page was created to be a resource that provides information and updates regarding Orange County's Internet services. This page also serves an archive for all past broadband news posts.
If you have any questions regarding broadband in Orange County, NC, please feel free to contact:
Jim Northrup, CIO, Orange County Government
We're happy to post the following Press Release!
ORANGE COUNTY (Sept. 5, 2018) -- High-speed Internet access is on its way to several rural areas in Orange County, thanks to a public-private partnership between Orange County and Open Broadband, LLC, that was approved by the Board of County Commissioners during its Sept. 4 meeting.
Open Broadband LLC will receive a $500,000 grant from the county to help develop the next generation broadband infrastructure needed to meet the needs of many currently unserved and underserved Orange County residents. The two projects will reach approximately 2,700 of the almost 5,000 residential units that are not adequately served with broadband, said Orange County Information Technologies Director Jim Northrup.
“We are all very excited to see these wireless internet pilots become successful,” said Northrup. “Inadequate rural broadband is a national problem. The Board of Commissioners have made increased access to broadband a priority for the rural areas of Orange County. It’s nice to be part of an effort to improve Orange County’s broadband footprint.”
High-speed internet access is important for several reasons, said Northrup. It provides residents greater flexibility to work from home, helps students succeed in school and keeps people connected with family members.
In Fiscal Year 2017-18, funds were budgeted to create a scalable broadband solution to foster innovation, drive job creation, stimulate economic growth, and serve new areas of development in the community. Multiple vendors responded to Orange County’s Request for Proposals (RFP).
The pilot projects chosen will have a 36-month duration at which time the projects will be re-evaluated for economic viability, with no obligation for continued County support beyond the initial investment.
This initiative is part of a multi-track effort to enhance broadband and internet service technology to Orange County residents. Pending the results from these pilot efforts, similar partnerships and investment are planned to expand service to other areas of the County, and staff will continue to pursue all opportunities to expand these services to County residents.
Broadband services will be provided to residents by Open Broadband LLC.
Orange County Commissioner Penny Rich and Chief Information Officer Jim Northrup were interviewed for an article in UNC's Daily Tarheel newspaper about efforts to expand and improve broadband in the county. See the article here.
In other news, private foundation NC IDEA is offering $50,000 SEED grants to North Carolina technology start-ups. The submission deadline is February 26, 2018.
For more on the SEED grant and other NC IDEA programs, visit the links below:
Check out some of these links to see how you can test your network speed and tell the state whether your area is represented correctly.
This link to online magazine CNET will take you to an article about finding a speed test.
This link will take you to the NC Broadband Infrastructure Office's speed reporting tool.
And as a bonus, click on this link to read an article on the Extreme Tech website about one potential solution for getting internet to rural areas and how it is currently being deployed in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
Orange County Approves Broadband Funding in Budget
On June 20th, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners approved a fiscal 2018 budget that includes $500,000 to improve and expand broadband in Orange County. Along with the WiFi–to–Go HotSpot check-out program at the Orange County Library, the newly approved funding is part of a county-wide initiative directed at improving service for current residents, expanding broadband to residents that do not currently have access to it, and continuing to attract jobs, businesses and investment into Orange County. Fiscal year 2018 runs from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018.
Orange County's WiFi-To-Go program is making news! See below for links to the most recent news items.
Link to video from WNCN news
Link to News & Observer article
Orange County is piloting an innovative WiFi-To-Go HotSpot check-out program that has already received some positive reviews. Most recently, the State of North Carolina Office of Broadband Infrastructure posted a video on their blog highlighting key features of the program. Watch the video here.
What should you know about this new program:
A HotSpot is a wireless device that can provide Internet access in any location that receives cell phone service;
Anyone with an Orange County Library card can check out a HotSpot for up to 3 weeks at a time;
There is no cost to check out a HotSpot but it can incur overdue fees if it is not returned by the due date;
The check-out period can be extended (similar to re-checking a library book) as long as there is no hold on it from the waiting list;
The Orange County Library currently has 75 HotSpots in its inventory.
More information about the WiFi-to-Go program can be found on the Orange County Library's webpage here.
In an effort to improve broadband access throughout the county for all residents, Orange County is collecting information through 2 surveys that are being given out with the HotSpots. While the WiFi-to-Go program has so far been enormously successful in improving Internet access for a limited period of time for those who check out a HotSpot, it is considered to be a Band-aid solution to the larger need for broadband that residents have demonstrated. The surveys will help us to make a stronger case to Internet Service Providers to expand and improve service in Orange County.
Governor McCrory Releases State Broadband Plan
Governor Pat McCrory's office has released an announcement concerning North Carolina's statewide broadband strategy. Please click on the link to view the press release on the NC Broadband Infrastructure webpage.
To read the full report, visit this site.
The Government of Orange County encourages residents to visit the FCC website to stay updated on federal news regarding telecommunications issues, including broadband access.
Residents can also file an informal complaint with the FCC at the FCC's Consumer Help Center or file a public comment on a formal proceeding. Informal complaints can be filed in Spanish by calling 888-225-5322 .
Below are the most recent key developments in our ongoing efforts to improve broadband access in Orange County.
Ongoing throughout 2016 |Orange Public and Education Network (OPEN) Workgroup Formation This workgroup is comprised of the heads of all local government and public education organizations within and including Orange County. Although not necessarily specific to broadband expansion, OPEN meets monthly to explore ways to share technology resources for the benefit of Orange County’s residents and workforce. To date, there have been 4 meetings.
Ongoing throughout 2015 and 2016 | Orange County Broadband Status Meetings and Conference Calls Orange County residents and staff together with staff from North Carolina’s Office of Digital Infrastructure hold a monthly conference call to discuss resident broadband needs and work on solutions. Since this date last year, 10 meetings/calls have been held.
Ongoing throughout 2015 and 2016 | Working with Service Providers Orange County staff contacted AT&T and Century Link to determine whether they would be expanding their network in Orange County with funding received from the FCC’s Connect America Funds. AT&T and Century Link have accepted Connect America Funds to provide broadband over the next 6 years to several parts of North Carolina, potentially including sections of northern Orange County and smaller areas in western Orange County. However, the final areas where service will be expanded have not yet been reported. Staff also contacted Time Warner to check if they were planning to expand their service area and Google Fiber to see if service would be deployed in Orange County.
Expected completion May 2016 | Expanding Wireless Service Orange County is working with Time Warner to facilitate public wireless Internet access at the following locations: the Farmer’s Market Pavilion, Cedar Grove Community Center and athletic fields, downtown Hillsborough, the Churton Street Corridor, and Fairview Park. Additionally, Orange County is continuing to increase and expand wireless access points at Cedar Grove Community Center, Efland-Cheeks Community Center and Little River Park. Public wireless Internet access is now available outside all County buildings.
March 21, 2016 | Library HotSpot Loaner Pilot Program The pilot program will enable Orange County citizens to access the Internet at home using loaner hotspots that connect to the cellular phone network. Hotspots are available to be checked out at the Main Library and Carrboro Library branches. Once the success of the pilot is determined, the program will be expanded.
March 1, 2016 | Wireless Communication Vertical Asset and Land-Based Site Identification County staff together with staff from NC’s Office of Digital Infrastructure traveled throughout Orange County identifying potential sites where wireless service equipment could be set up.
November 2014 – Current Date | Calls and Emails Received from Orange County Residents Orange County staff has processed hundreds of emails and calls from Orange County residents directly addressing the issue of broadband expansion in the county for either business or educational purposes.
Calls Made and Emails Sent on Behalf of Orange County Residents County staff continue to call and send emails to vendors on behalf of Orange County residents in an effort to improve broadband services in the Orange County.
On Wednesday, December 16, 2015, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) attended a meeting called by the State of North Carolina Office of Digital Infrastructure. At the meeting, survey results were shared identifying underserved areas of Orange County and public vertical assets were identified to help give the ISPs the information they need to expand broadband service in Orange County.
Summary of the Broadband Initiative's work to date and future plans
The Broadband Initiative is moving along. The following item was originally posted as a news item on Orange County's homepage.
ORANGE COUNTY FOCUSING ON BROADBAND SERVICE EXPANSION
ORANGE COUNTY, NC (November 12, 2015)—In concert with the North Carolina Information Technologies Services Office of Digital Infrastructure, Orange County has been working to expand Internet service through the County.
The topic of broadband expansion was the focus of a recent gathering of both elected leaders and residents who discussed impediments to limited Internet service, including the inability to work at home, negative impact on property values and the problems students studying at home may have completing homework.
As a result of feedback received from outreach efforts, Orange County has implemented several strategies for the immediate future, which include identifying under-served areas in Orange County and providing these results to Internet Service Providers (ISPs), as well as identifying available public vertical assets to help give ISPs the information they need to expand broadband service in Orange County.
“Broadband is an important tool for expanding educational and economic opportunities for residents in remote locations,” said Orange County Manager Bonnie Hammersley. “It is important that Orange County government collaborate with government leaders at every level as well as the private sector to research models for expanding rural broadband service in Orange County.”
Hammersley said Orange County has been able to broaden Internet service in several areas. Recently the County collaborated with Time-Warner on Wi-Fi projects for downtown Hillsborough and at Little River Park in Northern Orange.
The County is also identifying possible sites for telecommunications towers that can be used to provide wireless broadband service to residents in rural areas, while at the same time working to streamline the permitting process to more rapidly establish towers in additional locations.
Orange County plans to provide high speed Internet at the Cedar Grove Community Center, which will include a library kiosk, several public workstations along with free wireless Internet access in and around that facility, as well as create a Library HotSpot Loaner Program enabling Orange County residents to access the Internet at home using loaner hotspots that connect to the cellular phone network.
Hammersley cites as a priority expanded wireless service at the Orange County Farmers Market Pavilion, Cedar Grove Recreations Facilities, and Fairview Park, progressing toward the goal of bringing broadband to all of Orange County.
08/04/15 ~ We are starting to tabulate and analyze our Broadband Survey results. We are going to keep the survey open as a mean to collect more data regarding the quality of Internet service in Orange County.
While you are waiting for the survey data, check out this link on Engadget to read about an Internet delivery system being developed by Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg.
We are still in the collection phase of our survey. We are looking to start analyzing the survey results in early August and then working with the State to try to make it attractive for Internet service providers to improve Internet service throughout Orange County.
Broadband survey goes public. Orange County is actively seeking participation from all Orange County residents in the Orange County Broadband survey.
Tell your friends! Tell your family!
We are looking to get anyone who is interested in improving Internet services throughout the whole of Orange County to fill out our Broadband Survey. We are also starting to advertise this survey through press releases and radio public services announcements.
Orange County creates a Broadband survey. Here's an email sent out to Orange County employees.
----start of email----
From: Jim Northrup
Sent: Wednesday, May 20, 2015 6:03 PM
To: Everyone / Orange County Employees
Subject: How's your Internet? We need your help.
Good day everyone,
As you may or may not know, Information Technologies has been working with Orange County residents to improve Internet service around the county. Our first major step has been creating a survey that will help us identify areas in the County in need of improvement Internet-wise.
This is the part where I ask for your help. If you are an Orange County resident, please help us better understand Internet service throughout the county by taking the short survey.
The first page is basically a disclaimer with a link to the actual survey. The whole thing should take less than a minute. Yes,…less than a minute. Please feel free to email me directly any comments or concerns you have regarding this survey. Y’all are the first group I am sending this too, so any comments or corrections would be very helpful before we start making this survey available to the public at large.
Thanks in advance for any consideration you give to this matter.
----end of email----
Orange County is working with a group of concerned residents and the North Carolina Information Technologies Services' Office of Digital Infrastructure on a survey to help us better understand the broadband needs of our residents.
Currently, we are developing a survey to better understand the barriers to quality Internet service. We are working with Orange County residents to help define the goals for this survey and then craft questions to help us understand the above mentioned barriers.
One discussion that has come up over the years is making it easier for telecommunications companies to put towers up in Orange County. Here are some documents that support that cause.
Local and State Officials met to discuss improving Internet access for Orange County residents. Here's the News & Observer article about that meeting.
You may have heard Google Fiber is coming to Orange County. Here's a link to Google's site.
What do we know about Google fiber? We know that they are coming to parts of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, but currently they have no plan to expand services to all of Orange County. Here's a link that shows their expansion plans.
Here's another news article discussing Google Fiber in our area.