In an auditorium at SAS Monday, more than 200 people gathered to hear from speakers in business and government about the impact that fiber internet will have on our region.

Wake County’s 1 millionth resident will see infrastructure change – not Interstate -40, but internet, said Michael Goodmon, vice president of Capitol Broadcasting (WRALTechWire’s parent company), in greeting the guests. It will be built to help them and those who follow with speeds of up to 1 Gb per second. This will change the way we consume data and content and take advantage of greater communication.

As noted by Pat Moody, the CEO of MCNC, everyone in the room was feeling the excitement that is offered when fiber is implemented throughout North Carolina. She pointed out that the room was packed with people working hard and, perhaps more importantly, working together to usher in unprecedented Internet access across the state. The advanced broadband services coming online will allow all North Carolinians to discover how broadband infrastructure will transform the way we live, work, learn and play.

“This growing broadband availability will lead the way to stable pricing, which will in turn promote economic development,” said Moody. “We’re not satisfied with yesterday’s success. We will continue to invest into future and close our state’s connectivity gaps. MCNC will help to position our state, work across sectors and shape the broadband ecosystem of the future.”

Keith Collins, executive vice president and chief information officer at SAS, drew a laugh when he described today’s experience of being online at home much like Daniel Boone’s trek across North Carolina.

“Can you visualize Daniel Boone, in his coonskin cap, walking from Hillsborough to the mountains of North Carolina … is that how you feel at home on your network? Bushwhacking, and wondering if, as you traverse next hill, you can make it through? That’s me trying to Skype at home,” Collins said.

He encouraged audience members to imagine the near-future when, instead, connectivity feels like the StarTrek holodeck, with speeds that allow for full immersion as you work with a team. “That’s fiber,” he said. “Speed. And not speed for speed’s sake, but instead to open three opportunities: innovation, education and community.”

Collins noted that communities that have invested in fiber have seen an increase in GDP and in real estate values. And in part, that is a result of the innovation, education and community development that comes from fiber access.

His examples of how we’ll innovate were timely.

Collins noted how remote medical care might have been deployed to slow the Ebola epidemic. Patients could see your doctor from  home if need be.

He said North Carolina’s No. 1 business, agriculture, needs to find ways to double our food supply by 2020 – making every farmer a data scientist.

Pointing out that SAS takes education seriously, Collins pointed out that the company works to provide and deliver K-12 resources with curriculum pathways, all via online education. Their ‘freemium’ SAS product has recently marked the 100,000th download, focused completely in cloud.

When CEOs get together in the Triangle, he said, the conversation about community turns quickly to talent retention and recruitment.

“We’re almost in talent curve similar to what we saw before the dot com build,” said Collins. “Today’s talent wants a flexible work arrangement. How can you offer this if you don’t have good home access at high speed? We can’t continue to have failure during audio meetings, with people repeatedly uttering ‘can you say that again?’ The value of fiber will be seen in the always-on video framework at home. More productivity means that you can offer complete flexibility for employees, positively impacting recruitment.”

He also pointed to the evolution from scarcity to abundance, suggesting that it means we’re seeing a convergence around big data.

“Innovation with big data isn’t just about the data – big pipes allow us to have big computation, and big innovation in big data.”