The North Carolina Broadband Report released Tuesday by the McCrory Administration concludes with a warning about the future.

“Other states and countries around the world are leading initiatives to respond to this rising demand,” the authors write “If the state’s infrastructure does not support the ever increasing need for greater bandwidth and speeds, people and businesses will move.”

The plan serves as a potential roadmap for providing universal broadband access across the state by 2021. Some 750,000 North Carolinians still lack access to high-speed Internet.

Here is the conclusion as published:

“The benefits of high-speed internet access are well documented through the statistics, academic studies, figures and data cited throughout this plan. While important for designing and implementing smart public policies, these data do not drive this plan. Rather, it’s the North Carolinians behind these numbers—and the trials and obstacles they face as a result of the digital divide— that invigorates and inspires this plan.

“The stories that hundreds of North Carolinians have conveyed during the formation of this plan are sometimes heartwarming but often disheartening. Parents tell stories of driving their children to the local coffee shop or McDonalds every night so they could access internet to complete homework. Business owners cite struggles with competing with other businesses because their service is inadequate. Job applicants convey frustration and sadness as they tell us they were unable to apply to jobs because they couldn’t find an open library or other community anchor institution after school or work hours.

“Dr. Valerie Truesdale, the Chief Officer of Technology, Personalized Learning, and Engagement for the CharlotteMecklenburg Public School System, tells a story of Jose, a student. As part of the district’s digital learning initiative, he and his classmates received school-issued laptops. She recounts meeting him in the hallway, the thin device tucked snuggly under his arm. She excitedly asked him what about his life had changed now that he had his own computer. He stopped, looked up at her and in an earnest tone said, “Now I can be curious any time I want.”

“Curiosity shouldn’t be limited to school hours. Learning happens all day long, every day and curious children who wish to continue their education outside of the school building shouldn’t be restricted from doing so because of a lack of broadband access

“In Beaufort County just outside of Chocowinity, a tobacco farm owner, Jane Boahn saw few promising prospects for her farm after the tobacco market for tobacco collapsed a few years ago. To preserve her family’s rural lifestyle with few resources, she converted her farm into a country store, learning center, and venue for events such as parties and weddings. Seventy-five percent of her advertising, marketing, and event sales are made through her website. However, her connection is inconsistent and too slow to scale her business. And yet, no options for better service are available to her location.

“These two stories embody the motivation and inspiration behind the state’s leadership role and this plan’s objective to ensure ubiquitous access to high-speed internet. Highspeed internet service can both bridge and intensify the digital divide. It provides economically disadvantaged areas with unprecedented opportunities to support business growth and improve the standard of living, but for households unable to adopt or without access, it further heightens the economic and social divide.

“The state’s current broadband infrastructure serves as a robust foundation for achieving that objective. The current economic climate, geographic location, the abundance of middle-mile assets, and investment in digital learning, telehealth initiatives, and public safety communications contribute to a positive outlook.

“The state must position itself for the future. Other states and countries around the world are leading initiatives to respond to this rising demand. If the state’s infrastructure does not support the ever increasing need for greater bandwidth and speeds, people and businesses will move.

“Future networks will rely heavily on wireless connections. Wireless providers and handset makers, as noted above, are working to release 5G networks-claiming download speeds hundreds of times faster than current speeds by June 2021. As noted above, trends show the public moving to mobile devices, particularly among lower income populations. Wireless backhaul will require next generation infrastructure and equipment, namely fiber-optic cables.

“As quickly as technology is changing, the business models supporting broadband services and the infrastructure used to deploy broadband are evolving just as quickly. Reliance on the “way things are done” or outdated laws and regulations will hamper the state’s growth and leadership role in this area.

“Law makers must seriously consider and be amenable to the market-driven commoditization of broadband infrastructure. This plan charts a pathway to the future. It takes the next steps needed by offering recommendations and models that allow communities and providers to adapt to this changing ecosystem. The belief that active, organized, and informed communities will bridge the digital divide, this plan serves as a resource for state and local leaders. It encourages a partnership model where communities marry their infrastructure and organizational skills with private internet providers’ ability to operate a network.

“Achieving the state’s goals to eliminate the digital divide and ensure affordable broadband access is available to all citizens by 2021 demands the collective action of state and local leaders, and key stakeholders. State and local leaders implementing this plan can act as a powerful aggregator and convener to lead the movement to the future, ensuring access to 21st Century infrastructure for all North Carolinians.”

Read the full report at: