Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of Local Tech Wire and business editor of WRAL.com.
RALEIGH, N.C. – Tracking and incenting deployment of broadband access for the Authority has never been an easy task for the Jane Patterson-led group since its founding nearly a decade ago.
Most private sector providers have never been forthcoming in providing the kind of mapping and access data that e-NC has needed to truly document where broadband is – and isn’t from Manteo to Murphy. They cite need to protect proprietary and competitive information.
e-NC has doggedly tracked down loads of information and also forged partnerships with many of the Internet Service Providers to incent network expansion through matching grants. But its efforts were threatened with derailment at the General Assembly earlier this summer when the e-NC budget was slashed and bills calling for money to help e-NC incent further expansion were deep-sixed by the budget crisis.
Making matters worse, the private sector providers found allies in the General Assembly who threw their weight behind a deal that led providers striking their own broadband mapping deal with a third party – Connected Nation.
But Patterson, a former science advisor to four-term Gov. Jim Hunt and a tireless advocate for broadband in North Carolina dating back to the days when few knew what the term meant, is a tenacious fighter. She saw an opportunity to keep e-NC functioning and in the mapping business by applying for federal stimulus funds. The federal government is going to invest billions in rural high-speed Internet access efforts, and Patterson wanted some of the action for e-NC.
On Monday, Sen. Kay Hagan announced that (The state is still waiting to hear if MCNC will be successful in its bid to expand the N.C. Research and Education Network.)
However, e-NC’s battles are not over. While the $2 million helps, the authority still has no funding to incentivize the private sector to service areas that simply don’t meet bottom line economic criteria – i.e. return on investment. E-NC also does much more than map and seek to expand broadband. Its rural tele-work centers are designed to bring Internet training and jobs to communities that leaders of the Internet revolution has passed by.
When the next budget talks begin, the new maps are available and it’s known whether MCNC is adding many miles of fiber to NCREN, N.C.’s leaders – political and private sector – will hopefully collaborate on a revamped strategy to make high-speed access available to all the state’s citizens.
Get the latest news alerts: at Twitter.