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Broadband service expanding in rural Nash

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NASHVILLE — Nash County’s plan to provide broadband access to rural areas is progressing, according to an update from county officials and the company contracted for internet services.

The pilot program set to serve two dozen customers is complete, according to Nash County Board of Commissioners Vice Chairman Wayne Outlaw, who heads the county’s broadband committee.

Underway now is Phase 2, which includes installation of equipment to serve 100 residential and five commercial customers. Phase 2 also includes finding a permanent location for a network operations center, most likely in Nashville, according to information provided by Patsy MeGhee, assistant to the county manager.

The pilot program cost the county $340,500 and Phase 2 cost $950,400. Plans for Phase 3 are being discussed with CloudWyze, the Wilmington-based company establishing broadband in the county.

The N.C. Rural Broadband Mini-Budget became law in mid-October. The law will fund the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology project at a rate of $15 million annually for the next decade. GREAT grants are funded by the N.C. Broadband Infrastructure Office and money is awarded directly to providers like CloudWyze. Counties cannot apply for the funds.

“Since Nash County was not a Tier 1 county in 2018, CloudWyze could not apply for the GREAT grant for our Phase 1 pilot program,” McGhee said. “However, Nash County is a Tier 1 county in 2019 and CloudWyze plans to apply for the GREAT grant to help implement the continued deployment of high-speed internet throughout much of the remainder of Nash County. Most likely, this will include a 50% grant rate with a match from Nash County.”

GREAT funding will mean 80% of the county being served with high speed internet, McGhee said.

To help make Phase 2 more successful, new executives have been brought aboard. With expansions in Nash and Halifax counties, CloudWyze is adding team members to help solve broadband needs, said CloudWyze spokeswoman Ann Revell-Pechar.

The company added two executives and plans to add four more team members by year’s end.

Adrian Wilson, known for years in private equity and entrepreneur support, joins CloudWyze as executive vice president.

“I’m excited to join CloudWyze at such a crucial time,” Wilson said. “We have the opportunity to grow a significant business by providing broadband access to a portion of our population that has never had it before. Internet access today is as much a right as access to electricity was a generation ago, and credit goes to the state and local officials who are championing this cause.”

An attorney, entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Wilson has held many positions in corporate investment, including as founder of Square1 Ventures where he managed $45 million in capital funds. He most recently co-founded telecommunications company Airwavz Solutions. At CloudWyze, Wilson will provide executive services leading to funding opportunities and enhanced government and community relations.

Nicco Leone, billed as a leader in technology and operations, joins the company as chief operating officer.

“It’s all about speed to market,” Leone said. “And not just from a business strategy perspective, I’m talking about the demand for reliable internet in these rural areas. Families and businesses are hungry for it, and it’s our job to serve them as quickly and efficiently as possible. I couldn’t be more excited to return to my home town of Wilmington to help families and companies across the State succeed.”

Leone recently returned to Wilmington after several years at Capgemini Consulting as an operations and technology consultant, joining his client Brooks Brothers to build what officials described as a global center of excellence driven by systems and operational efficiencies. He left Brooks Brothers to become an entrepreneur, founding digital marketing automation company Lykewyze.

CloudWyze allows remote, rural locations to reach the broadband signals required for daily living in the 21st century. In 2018, a creative public-private approach connected CloudWyze to Nash County, where commissioners committed funding to deliver high-speed internet to rural parts of the county. The company has begun the installation of a network capable of providing 100-plus megabits per second internet access to residents, and the ability to meet business demands with dedicated access up to and beyond 1Gbps.

The company has been supporting initial trial customers since April and in January will expand services in Nash, then Halifax County.

This year, CloudWyze was awarded $3.8 million in nonrestricted grants from municipal and state government organizations as part of North Carolina’s initiative to deliver reliable broadband to rural areas of the state. CloudWyze is currently establishing systems and personnel to expand to other rural counties, according to information from the company.