Tarboro, N.C. — After years of service issues, leaders in Tarboro say they’re bringing in a new broadband company to compete with the town’s current provider Suddenlink.
Some Tarboro business owners hope the move will bring them reliable internet at last.
Amber Barnes, owner of Tarboro Coffee House, said she knew from experience that her network – run by Suddenlink – could go down at any time.
“We have issues weekly with them,” Barnes said. “Our internet goes out for hours at a time, it’s very difficult to run a business when you have no internet.”
Barnes told WRAL News she was ready to drop Suddenlink, and she wasn’t the only one.
Tarboro Town Manager Troy Lewis said in the months after the pandemic began, the town got so many complaints about Suddenlink’s internet service that they petitioned the North Carolina Attorney General for help.
“Just in recent years, the customer service has gone down some, the town has received a lot of complaints from citizens about poor service, long outage times, speeds that weren’t what was advertised,” Lewis said.
A group of mayors in eastern North Carolina have also asked the state for permission to move on from Suddenlink and set up their own fiber network.
It’s a step Wilson took in 2008 — but was later banned after the state legislature passed a law in 2011 preventing new city-run networks.
“It took away some local control that we had,” Lewis said. “Within our agreements, we could make sure that they served all the citizens, that they were responsive, that they had local offices.”
While the town couldn’t change its state-ordered agreement with Suddenlink or enter contract with a new provider, they’ve invested in a workaround: renting out space on their town-owned utility poles to a new provider, Snow Hill-based InfinityLink.
The town manager said InfinityLink would begin setting up its own fiber network for homes and businesses in Tarboro by the start of 2022.
“As we’ve seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s extremely important,” Lewis said. “With remote working from home, and just the access to the outside world, a rural community has to be connected.”
Tarboro leaders told WRAL News they hoped the competition would push Suddenlink to improve its service too, and business owners said they were excited about the possibilities.
“People may be able to come in and know that we have good WiFi and know that they can stay and do their business here, which in turn helps my business as well,” Barnes said.
WRAL News reached out to Suddenlink to ask about the town’s plan to bring in a new provider due to poor broadband performance.
The company sent the following statement in response:
“Suddenlink has a long standing relationship with the Town of Tarboro and is committed to providing our local customers with exceptional service and support. We continue to invest in our services and operations to ensure we are meeting the needs of our customers, including launching new products like our Stream streaming device and enhancing our care platforms to ensure customers are receiving expert and timely support from our care representatives. We have seen improvements in customer satisfaction in recent months and look forward to continuing to provide Tarboro residents and businesses with high-quality connectivity services.”