North Carolina Next Generation Network (NCNGN) is a regional initiative focused on stimulating the deployment of next generation broadband networks in North Carolina. The coordinated effort is led by six municipalities and four leading research universities and supported by local Chambers of Commerce and businesses in the Research Triangle and Piedmont regions. NCNGN’s goal is to encourage private sector providers to deliver ultra-fast bandwidth at highly affordable prices to ensure our regions and state remain competitive and at the forefront of developing the next-generation applications essential to all sectors of the economy. While residents in cities such as Kansas City, Austin, and Seattle are, or will soon be, enjoying 1 gigabit of speed at $70 – $80/month, many residents in North Carolina pay that much or more for connections only 5% as fast. NCNGN is looking to change that.
Need: Bandwidth and high-speed access are the technological equivalents of highways and electricity. Contemporary and cutting-edge knowledge-based businesses and industries need bandwidth, fiber, an educated workforce, and a great place to live. Other cities and regions including Kansas City, Austin, Seattle, Chicago, Chattanooga, Provo, and many others have recognized this need and moved forward aggressively to address the issue. Entrepreneurs and businesses have started to flock to those areas, and existing residents, businesses, and local governments are finding ways to use the increased bandwidth to enhance their daily lives in meaningful ways such as improved home healthcare and public safety applications. Lack of affordable, next-generation network services threatens our state’s ability to remain competitive and maintain its reputation as home to multiple hubs of technological innovation. North Carolina should ensure our residents and businesses are able to enjoy the benefits of these advanced technologies so as to promote economic development, improve local government services including access for anchor institutions, and reduce the digital divide.
Premise: North Carolina has relied on a strong tradition of public-private-university collaboration to create an innovative culture that has earned the Research Triangle and Piedmont Triad regions reputations as prolific breeding grounds for technology-based innovations. As a result, we already have several market advantages including a large existing base of technology businesses and highly-skilled workforce with strong demand for bandwidth, and high residential and commercial density. These market characteristics, combined with municipal and university efforts to lower deployment costs, should enable a provider to earn an attractive return on investment while offering competitively priced services our communities and universities need to continue to attract the citizens, businesses, students and professors integral to our ability to compete in the new economy.
Approach: The NCNGN members, which include the municipalities of Cary, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Durham, Raleigh, and Winston-Salem and their university partners Duke University, NC State University, UNC Chapel Hill, and Wake Forest University/Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center began collaborating in the summer of 2012.
Actions: On February 1, 2013, NCNGN, through the Triangle J Council of Governments, issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) inviting one or more private companies to build and operate the desired networks. Eight responses were received by the April 1st deadline. Initial discussions were held with all responders, followed by detailed negotiations with more than one possible provider. A final recommendation was made to enter into an agreement with AT&T to provide gigabit Internet services to NCNGN communities.
Results: AT&T is actively installing a fiber network in all six NCNGN communities. As of December 2015, AT&T has service offerings in limited areas with plans to have services available on a large scale by the end of 2016.