North Carolina’s recently announced “Broadband Plan” calls for universal access across the state to high-speed Internet. Is that really doable?

Yes, says the exec who runs N.C.’s only statewide fiber network – NCREN (North Carolina Research and Education Netowkr..)

Jean Davis, CEO of MCNC which runs the North Carolina research and Education Network, explains why in a Q&A.

  • Is statewide universal access really doable by 2021?

We’ve made major progress in North Carolina over the past five years, and technology is improving every day. So, I don’t believe it’s unrealistic to think that this level of connectivity will be deliverable by 2021.

  • What did the plan get right? Where is it wrong?

I’m an optimist. Most states don’t even have a broadband office, never mind a state broadband plan. So, we are thrilled with the leadership from the State CIO and his staff. They worked hard to consult with stakeholders, gather information and ideas for the plan, and I think it’s a great foundation that aligns us all towards several shared goals.

  • Given its existing network, MCNC could be a big partner in making this happen – could it? Will it?

Yes. MCNC is looking to make North Carolina the most connected state in the country in the coming years, and one of our key focus areas to accomplish this goal is to increase overall engagement among network users and in local communities. For example, our new stakeholder engagement initiative gives us the opportunity to meet regularly with state officials, our telecom partners and other organizations.

Another key component to this plan is to further educate folks about NCREN and our open access network. For more than three decades, MCNC has been a leader in broadband deployment and operational excellence for North Carolina, and NCREN provides the backbone network to cost-effectively spread the Internet far and wide into the state.

Access to high-speed Internet in North Carolina is now a fundamental part of any plan to improve a community’s overall quality of life. And, with the right combination of tools and leadership, MCNC is well positioned to connect North Carolina in new and smart ways.

  • How can MCNC help reach the universal broadband goal?

MCNC currently provides Internet connectivity and technology services to more than 500 community anchor institutions in North Carolina, and we continue to further develop partnerships with telecom providers, technology firms, local governments and others to explore new technologies, run pilot projects and find creative ways to bring together the resources in every inch of the state.

This organization is much more than just an Internet provider, but a full-service technology resource that gives North Carolina a massive competitive advantage among other states while creating unprecedented opportunities for its citizens. MCNC has a great deal of technical expertise and deep roots in local communities. And, we know that with the right people working on these challenges, we can be successful in helping reach the goals set forth in the state’s plan.