Last year was a banner year for broadband. Look for more in 2014.

Much of the work in North Carolina and across the country in 2013 focused on supporting the innovation economy of the future – one that produces new and better jobs so the United States can remain competitive in the 21st Century.

Through 2013, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) reported that 230 broadband projects through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) have collectively deployed or upgraded more than 110,000 miles of broadband infrastructure; connected more than 20,000 community anchor institutions to high-speed broadband Internet service; generated approximately 625,000 new broadband Internet subscribers; and installed more than 46,000 workstations in public computer centers.

In North Carolina, technology non-profit MCNC completed a large-scale BTOP project last year to expand the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN). That network is now a fiber-based network that is more than 2,600 miles spanning the entire state and is one of just a handful of states with an open access, middle-mile fiber network available to economic developers, businesses, and broadband service providers.

While other state BTOP projects wind down over the next year, the NTIA said they will be focusing on leveraging the lessons and expertise gained from these broadband grants into other areas – including President Obama’s ConnectED initiative announced last summer, which aims to ensure that 99 percent of the nation’s students have high-speed connectivity and access to next-generation broadband within five years.

“We made great progress this year, but have more work to do in 2014 and beyond,” commented Angela Simpson, NTIA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information, on a recent blogpost.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also will have their hands full in 2014.

The FCC’s next open meeting on Jan. 30 is tied to one common theme: Adapting Regulatory Frameworks to 21st Century Networks. In his first speech in Silicon Valley on Thursday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler remarked that the commission’s challenge this year is “to be as nimble as the innovators and network builders who are changing the world and creating these great opportunities.”

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released new data last week indicating that the U.S. has approximately 93 million broadband subscribers as of June 2013 (This is the most recent data available and the OECD only counts fiber to the apartment or fiber to the home as a fiber connection in their study).

The most recent census available for the United States has 313.9 million people. By all calculations that still leaves plenty of room for broadband growth and adoption in the coming year and years ahead for the USA.

As far as other items to watch out for in 2014, the overhaul of E-Rate will be high on the radar for many in North Carolina as well as net-neutrality policies and open internet, the fallout from NSA surveillance policies, wireless technologies and spectrum, telehealth innovation, and big data analytics. Finally, the development of a nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated to public safety (FirstNet) will be something to watch for this year along with continuing research and testing in OpenFlow and Software-Defined Networking.

All of these compelling stories should make for another interesting and exciting year of broadband.