Firm sets new date for wireless


By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Eastern Shore Communications is hoping to offer low-cost internet service in Elizabeth City by year’s end, and in the Pasquotank County Commerce Park before April, a company official said this week.

Scott Sledge, Eastern Shore’s director of business development, said the firm’s new wireless internet service isn’t available in Elizabeth City yet because the company has been making additional network improvements to reduce customers’ risk of losing service. After securing a deal with City Council to place transmitting equipment on water towers, the company had hoped to offer service in August or early September.

However, Sledge said the company decided to re-examine its network structure after an incident several months ago with an internet service provider in Raleigh. Eastern Shore has been taking steps to create more redundancy surrounding its network operating center, he said. In essence, the company is trying to make sure neither it nor its customers can easily lose internet service, he said.

“We wanted to do it the right way,” he said of the delays in offering service.

Sledge also said the company is setting up its office in Elizabeth City at 425 McArthur Drive, but it is not yet open, nor is a website specifically for Elizabeth City-area customers. Those should be up soon, he said, and the company is still planning an aggressive advertising campaign to encourage customers to sign up.

In supporting Eastern Shore’s internet service, city officials’ hope is to offer fast, low-cost internet to city residents and businesses. Internet access is increasingly vital for both education and economic development — and existing providers could use some competition, they’ve said. Sledge confirmed Wednesday that Eastern Shore’s residential internet packages will still cost $20 to $50 a month, with speeds varying from 10 to 50 Megabits per second. The company is also looking at bundling TV service, he added.

Eastern Shore is also planning to offer service soon in and around Pasquotank’s Commerce Park. County commissioners in July agreed to strike a deal with Eastern Shore similar to the city’s: use of its water tower to provide internet access, in exchange for a share of revenues once sales start. That deal is still pending.

As part of making the service available, commissioners on Monday unanimously approved spending $21,217 to have network provider MCNC run a fiber optic line to the water tower. The county will also pay about $3,600 a year in licensing fees. Eastern Shore is relying partly on MCNC’s network to provide internet access in and around Elizabeth City.

Sledge said Eastern Shore hopes to offer service in Pasquotank in the first quarter of 2018. He also confirmed that business packages around the Commerce Park will vary from $70 to $150 a month, with speeds from 25 to 100 megabits per second. Households near the Commerce Park will also be able to sign up for service, he noted, with packages of $40 to $80 a month and speeds from 20 to 50 Mbps.