Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of WRAL Tech Wire and business editor of

GARNER, N.C. – Cynthia Marshall, AT&T’s top executive in North Carolina, flashed a smile as bright as the clear, crisp winter day for two major reasons.

One, she had the opportunity to talk about the telecom giant’s 4G wireless broadband rollout.

Two, she is working full time again after a year-long battle with advanced colon cancer.

While her firm is coming to the high-speed market behind rivals Sprint and Verizon Wireless, Marshall touted with enthusiasm the advantages fourth-generation, thus 4G, capabilities offer businesses and consumers during a stop at the AT&T store in Garner.

Including herself.

“As a parent, I want to be able to check on my children’s grades quickly,” she said. With 4G, which launched in the Raleigh-Cary and Chapel Hill area on Friday, Marshall explained she can get the information quickly as she dashes between meetings or other business.

Just how happy the children are with the quick access to homework and test performance, Marshall didn’t disclose.

Nearby, AT&T engineer Jerry Jones talked about the advantages of 4G from both technical and personal perspectives.

“The data is so much faster. There is less latency,” he said, noting 4G data speeds are several times that of 3G. “I used it on the way here. I used my Starbucks apps to try to find one around here.”

With a wry grin, he was quick to add: “I checked when the car wasn’t moving.”

Marshall, who lives in Cary, and Jones both noted the 8,000 percent growth in demand for mobile data with consumers and businesses most interested in faster data delivery and web browsing. (Voice remains 3G, Jones noted.) They also demonstrated the growing number of devices that support 4G, from smartphones to a Samsung tablet.

Business will benefit from 4G as well, Marshall noted. “Companies and employees will be able to do more faster and with less,” she said. “They will be more productive.”

Beating Cancer: Another Reason to Smile

Marshall has a great deal to smile about these days beyond the 4G rollout. In five years on the job and following the merger that swallowed up BellSouth, she said she has been successful in convincing AT&T to make North Carolina a market priority. Marshall noted several times that the Triangle area and Charlotte, which landed 4G last year, are among the first AT&T markets to launch the service.

“Since 2008, we’ve invested $1.2 billion in infrastructure upgrades” in the Carolina markets, Marshall said. “This sends a signal to the state that North Carolina is important to AT&T. This is one of the 26 markets to get the latest in technology.”

More importantly as a reason to be happy, Marshall has over the past two years defeated advanced colon cancer. “I feel wonderful,” she said, noting that her healing is a “miracle” from God. Marshall returned to work last March.

Never shy to talk about her faith, Marshall talked at length about the challenges of cancer and the still-lingering side effects from extensive chemotherapy.

Marshall and I met for the first time at the event. We’re both colon cancer survivors, and I had written about her battles as she recounted them through a blog. She expressed thanks to people from around the Triangle and country who reached out to support her, including sitting at her side as she endured chemo treatments. Marshall shared her faith, trials and tribulations while remaining positive even at the depths of the worst pain.

“I felt,” she said, absolutely beaming again, “like I was the most loved person in the world.”

Now that’s a big reason to smile – especially since as fellow survivors we could joke that we’re “still vertical.”

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