MCNC, the non-profit operator of the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN), yesterday hosted national networking leaders who discussed how communities throughout the state can improve broadband connectivity while offering recommendations and best practices on how to empower cities and regions with the tools and resources that attract broadband investments and promote meaningful use.

“Every community has unique broadband needs and connectivity challenges,” said MCNC President and CEO Jean Davis. “Having leadership of this caliber and experience here with us today reinforces MCNC’s role and mission of leveraging broadband to benefit the public good and eliminate digital exclusion in North Carolina. MCNC is here to help communities and NCREN users accomplish their goals whatever they may be and wherever they might be located.”


Those participating in yesterday’s discussion included: Blair Levin, former chief of staff at the FCC and creator the National Broadband Plan now with Brookings Institute; Glenn Ricart, founder and CTO of U.S. Ignite and member of the Internet Hall of Fame; and Laura Spining, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s director of broadband infrastructure for the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Others included: NC State University CIO Marc Hoit (chair of the MCNC Advisory Council); Duke University CIO Tracy Futhey (member of the MCNC Board of Directors); and MCNC Chief Technology Officer Mark Johnson.

Laura Spining played a key role in designing and managing the NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, or BTOP, which brought more than $100 million in federal funding to expand and improve North Carolina’s fiber infrastructure over the last several years. She is now developing new programs at NTIA to foster better intergovernmental cooperation that promotes more improvements to fiber infrastructure

During the discussion, Spining highlighted the new Broadband Opportunity Council Report, which describes steps that 25 federal agencies will take over the next 18 months to eliminate barriers and promote broadband investment and adoption. Included therein is an effort the NTIA will spearhead called the Broadband Funding Guide to create a portal for information on federal broadband funding and loan programs to help communities easily identify resources as they seek to expand access to broadband.

NTIA to work with stakeholders in coming months

NTIA also plans to work collaboratively with stakeholders in the coming months to launch what is being labeled as a Connectivity Index, which is envisioned as a public-private partnership effort to help communities benchmark their connectivity.

Over the past six years, the United States has expanded broadband access to bring millions of people online and create significant new economic, educational and social opportunities. Those federal investments have helped deploy or upgrade more than 110,000 miles of network infrastructure throughout the country, giving more than 45 million additional Americans access to broadband Internet.

After Blair Levin left the FCC he created an effort called Gig.U, based on the idea that research universities would be ideal leaders for attracting gigabit broadband in their communities. The North Carolina Next Generation Network (NCNGN) in the Triangle was born out of that effort, which may serve as a national model for bringing advanced broadband connections and services to more communities throughout the country.

“North Carolina is ahead of others and has an opportunity to spread next-generation connectivity even further into communities throughout the state,” said Levin. “Increasingly, all economic activity involves the use of broadband, but most broadband networks are not designed to handle tomorrow’s needs.”