Joe Freddoso, chief executive officer at MCNC, knows from his own experience that a statewide fiber-basted Internet broadband highway is possible. MCNC built one – the North Carolina Research and Education Network.

But two?



“Just imagine,” he said enthusiastically. “We could be the gigastate!”

MCNC has promoted North Carolina as “The Connected State,” but now its leader sees even more possibilities, playing off the gigabyte-speed Internet access Google Fiber and other fiber-optic networks can deliver.

Look at the four maps included with this post – it seems fiber is almost available or soon will be in every major metro area across the state.

Plus, we’ve included links to stories posted over the past year that highlight all the development that is underway. Links to various networks also are included. (By the way, I failed to mention in an earlier version of this story: “Gigabit City” Wilson, which already has its own fiber network.)

NC Bandwidth Cornucopia?

Freddoso and a lot of other people were excited Wednesday when Google put both the Triangle and the Charlotte area on its short list of nine markets where Google Fiber – a hybrid of high-speed Internet access and high-definition television could be deployed.

There are certain conditions, of course.

Google wants to work with local governments on such time-consuming and costly affairs known as “rights of way” plus who knows what else that bureaucracies can throw in the way of progress.

But with everything that’s already happening in the state, Freddoso sees many possibilities.

Don’t forget the NC Next Generation Network is under development. It would not only cover the Triangle but link to the Triad.

Plus, last July, RST Global announced its privately held statewide network.

Is Google already a bidder for the project? No one is talking.

But Time Warner has thrown its name in the fiber ring, so to speak, to win the NCNGN deal. It’s the only company to disclose interest.

Time Warner Cable also has Duke Net’s extensive fiber highway, which it bought. But who knows what will happen if a deal to acquire TWC actually happens. Will new owners share current TWC management’s commitment to a state-wide network?

And more projects might be coming – say from some giant like AT&T. 

AT&T Is Talking, Too

WRALTechWire asked AT&T for reaction to Wednesday’s Google news, especially since AT&T’s U-verse Internet-TV offering is going head-to-head with Google Fiber in Austin, Texas.

“To the extent Google’s approach knocks down local barriers that delay and raise the cost of broadband deployment, all companies will benefit, including AT&T,” said spokesperson Josh Gelinas.

“We have been engaged in substantive discussions with several municipalities and are collaborating with them on the possibility of rolling out 100% fiber networks where there is customer demand and solid investment cases and policies.

“Our success to date in Austin, where we’ve exceeded our sales expectations, bodes well to bring U-verse with GigaPower to other markets. As we have news, we’ll share it.”

Why are people so excited?

For one big thing, the more players there are, the more competition there is – and that means lower prices. Look at how cut-throat competition in wireless is making cellphone bills at least a little more palatable.

Another is economic development. Better Internet, better infrastructure drive growth in today’s increasingly global digital economy.

That’s what excites Freddoso the most: the impact high-speed infrastructure means for the overall economy – from telehealth to “smarter networks” for running homes, businesses and utilities.

“These are all the art of the possible, with gigabit infrastructure,” he says. “Look at what has happened in Kansas City – all the development that has taken place around the Google Fiber infrastructure.”

One advantage that North Carolina could exploit that other states lack is NCREN, which goes to places commercial providers won’t because of sparse populations and perceived limited economic payback.

But NCREN works with all comers and has dark fiber for lease.