(Editor’s Note: WRAL Tech Wire reached out to each gubernatorial candidate on the ballet for 2012 last month and posed seven questions related to Internet connectivity for the State of North Carolina. Each candidate received the exact same questions and was given two weeks to respond. Each of their responses has been provided in the following story.)

RALEIGH, N.C. – Who will be the next governor of North Carolina?

Pat McCrory, Barbara Howe, and Walter Dalton currently are listed on the November ballot. Last month, WRAL Tech Wire asked each candidate seven questions as it relates to Internet connectivity for the State of North Carolina.

The following questions were asked:

• Do you have a vision of the tie between access to broadband and the state’s economic vitality?

• What is your vision for continuing the movement toward making more state government services accessible online?

• How do you feel North Carolina’s infrastructure is positioned as compared to other states?

• From a policy standpoint, what could North Carolina do better when it comes to giving citizens access to high-speed connectivity?

• With more health care, education, business growth and entertainment moving online, what broadband capacity do you believe is needed to support an increasingly on-line world?

• What defines a competitive supply environment to you in the broadband space? What is adequate competition for consumers, for businesses – in rural areas, in urban areas?

• When you hear the words “Digital Divide” what does that mean to you?

Their responses to each question are provided here below.

Walter Dalton (Democrat)

“Yes, we need to consider broadband as vital infrastructure just as roads and electricity were in the past. As part of my jobs plan, I have made expanding broadband to all 100 counties in North Carolina a priority. Just as connecting farms to market via paved roads was once key to economic growth, connecting every community to the global marketplace must be our priority now.

I think that moving services online is vital to making government transparent and accountable. I would implement performance contracts for top level staff and cabinet members that will be made available online as a first step towards a fully transparent performance model as in other states like Virginia.

We must continue finding new, innovative ways to build our infrastructure, and I will aggressively pursue public-private partnerships. One of my first projects as governor will be launching an Infrastructure Bank (I-Bank) with Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee to share both the costs and the benefits of infrastructure near our borders. Each state would provide start-up funding through a one-time capital investment and then identify public works projects for initial funding. This I-Bank will not only shift available capital from private equity and other funds to address our state’s infrastructure needs, but it will also put construction workers back to work. Plus, it will foster cooperation with our neighboring states and make projects more efficient.

One of my priorities as governor will be ensuring every community in North Carolina has high-speed internet access to connect them to the global marketplace. High-speed internet is as vital to progress and connecting people to basic services now as roads in the 1920s and electricity in the 1950s. I have made expanding broadband to all 100 counties in North Carolina a priority.

We must balance access with competition to ensure all our citizens can get affordable broadband. I believe that means different things for different regions of our state.

Access to broadband allows communities, businesses, schools and citizens access to the global economy and vast resources of cutting-edge knowledge. We must ensure that access for all of our citizens. I have been chair of the state eLearning commission and an advocate for expanding access to broadband in all 100 counties to eliminate the divide that exists. I am proud that North Carolina has the nation’s second-largest online public school. When you include our university system, North Carolina currently offers more online courses and degree programs than any other state. eLearning offers anytime, anyplace learning opportunities to North Carolinians with the goal of equalizing education for citizens throughout the state. As governor, I will build on these resources and continue to close the digital divide.”

Pat McCrory (Republican)
(Ricky Diaz, press secretary on behalf of Pat McCrory, provided this response on behalf of the candidate)

“Right now, North Carolina has the fifth highest unemployment rate in the country and suffers under high taxation, burdensome regulations and a broken state government. Pat McCrory is running for governor because he believes that we need new leadership and vision in our governor’s office to fix our state’s broken economy, broken government and reform education to focus on student achievement. It starts with that vision, and Pat McCrory has outlined plans and strategies to get us there. One helpful strategy to turning North Carolina around is effectively leveraging technology to improve the economy, government and education.

Pat strongly believes that technological innovation and high-speed connectivity is a pathway to a better education for our students, more customers for our businesses, and better government services for our citizens. But right now, a digital divide exists between urban-rural, public-private sectors as well as young-old.

He is very focused on how the use of technology can help improve the quality of government services. A recent report by the Raleigh News & Observer showed that many of our state agencies are operating in silos and that technology. The State of North Carolina spends more than $1.2 billion annually on technology. When managed correctly, technology can help bring down the cost of government without impacting its core services.

A McCrory administration will also work to bring more state services online and up to date. A service that can benefit from technological re-vamp is the DMV. Last year, Pat had to go to the DMV for a new license and the first thing he realized was that almost nothing has changed in the DMV since he got my first driver’s license in 1973 in Jamestown N.C., especially the long lines. If the DMV was in the private sector, it would be out of business. With the technology that we have, our government must be more responsive to the need of North Carolinians.

Law enforcement stands to benefit immensely from improved technology as well. Right now, silos and breakdowns in communications between the DA, sheriffs, and the courts make the lives of our law enforcement personnel more difficult. Frankly, they keep better track of a FedEx package than we do with people who broke the law, and this has been going on for decades; and yet very little change has been made. The integration of technology is critical to fighting crime smarter and more effectively.

Pat also believes we must continue to expand technological capacity in North Carolina and improve broadband infrastructure throughout the state to unite and strengthen our great state. A McCrory administration will work to wisely put our available resources to work strengthening broadband infrastructure and access for our rural communities.

Improving education through the use of technology is a key issue in both Pat’s K-12 and higher education plans. Pat McCrory strongly believes that North Carolina must offer greater access and more flexibility to local school systems to our students – public, private, and home schooled – to a wide range of for-credit, on-line courses. We should also make expanding the use of hand-held technology a priority so both struggling and advanced students can learn at their own pace within specific disciplines. This will help the rural areas, help the urban areas, save the tax payers money, and provide better results.

Teaching and education can no longer be limited to lectures, chalkboards, and brick buildings.

Our community colleges and universities are only scratching the surface of potential interactive, multimedia and diagnostic teaching technology. There are still many barriers preventing students from gaining access to the best teachers and professors across the state. This is how technology must help us in the future by sharing our best educators across campuses and to avail college courses to mid-career professionals. Pat McCrory knows this because he was the director of training for Duke Energy for seven years, and they were doing long-distance training almost two decades years ago and the capability of the technology was only a fraction of what it is today.”

Barbara Howe (Libertarian)

“… If government stays out of the way, the digital divide will be history. Access is available almost everywhere in the state already. I have visited almost every North Carolina county (and by the end of the campaign, I will have been to all 100), and I have yet to be confronted with no access. Providers seem to be meeting the demands of the marketplace by improving connectivity and expanding to all areas of the state.”