At the request of the Board of Commissioners, planning staff are looking at ways to bring fiberoptic Internet service to Wendell.
Fiber Internet allows for quicker speeds and for many towns, can be a way to lure business and permanent residents, said Planner Patrick Reidy.
“Internet is just as important nowadays as water and sewer,” he said.
Commissioner Ginna Gray said to her, fiber is like another part of Wendell’s infrastructure, being just as important to potential residents as water and sewer services.
The town is still early in the process; they haven’t even decided which fiber companies they would be interested in working with. Right now, Reidy said, they are just gathering information to see how it can be set up and used in Wendell.
It means they are talking with many different kinds of fiber companies.
“(We’re looking for) whatever the best option is for Wendell,” Reidy said. “Something local or something national – we don’t have a preference one way or another.”
Gray said the staff is also looking into what it would take financially to bring fiber services to the town. They also have to consider where the infrastructure of fiber would fit in and if it is readily available.
“I don’t know what kinds of obligations it would be to the town (but fiber is) all around us so I feel like at some point, we can get,” she said.
Helping the economy
Eastern Wake County was left out of plans presented earlier this year to pilot Google Fiber in the Triangle region. At that time, Wendell’s neighbor, Knightdale, began looking for ways to get in on a fiber plan.
But it has not been an easy process for Knightdale.
Google told Knightdale they would not expand their fiber plans and while Knightdale was able to continue talking with smaller fiber companies, like the North Carolina-based RST Fiber, there are no immediate plans to get fiber in the town.
But Wendell leaders took note, which is part of the reason Reidy said the town has taken on the effort.
“It provides our citizens with a faster Internet service (and) we don’t want to fall behind with technology when you have other municipalities in the area doing it,” he said.
Gray said the idea didn’t come from one person or group in the town, but it’s been an idea floated among staff and other officials for a while.
There is no date by which the town has committed to getting fiber service, although Reidy said it would be nice to have something ready to go when Wendell Falls begins residential construction, if the town decides to work with a fiber company.
Gray said it’s not an effort that needs to be tied up by then, though, as long as the town can do it. Ultimately, she said, the impact it could have on attracting younger residents would help the town.
“I believe it would have a positive impact on economic development,” she said. “It will attract younger residents that are interested in coming to a place (that is) much more computer-savvy.”
And Gray said fiberoptic services are not just for the younger crowd. She said she’s seen interest from older residents as well.
“It has surprised me and I have enjoyed (learning that) folks who I didn’t think would be interested, are,” she said. “To me, it’s just a fantastic thing to bring to our community.”
Reidy and the planning department will present some of their early findings at the July 23 Economic Development Committee meeting.