Supporting and driving improvements in rural connectivity

Day 11For more than three decades, MCNC has supported the missions of anchor institutions in North Carolina communities by driving improvements in the availability and capacity of broadband Internet and associated services. Advanced broadband for anchor institutions enhances the competitiveness of communities and encourages economic development. Serving anchor institutions must be complemented by high-capacity, affordable residential broadband to complete the picture. Students must be able to complete assignments at home, doctors need access while on call, and citizens must be able to engage with their government online.

In order to achieve ubiquitous broadband availability, all options for providing that must be on the table.

HB 129: The Level Playing Field Act

In 2011, the North Carolina General Assembly instituted legislation limiting the authority of local governments to build broadband Internet networks. The bill, HB 129, also known as the Level Playing Field Act, passed.

After the statute went into effect, The City of Wilson was allowed to continue operating its Greenlight network but they were prohibited from extending its services beyond Wilson County. The city along with the Chattanooga, Tenn., subsequently petitioned the FCC for a preemption of the state law. In February 2015, the FCC ruled in their favor in a 3-2 vote along party lines.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler noted at the time that "the area's top employers all rely on the community broadband network, new companies have located in Wilson because of its network, and residents and businesses in five surrounding counties are all pleading for access to this gigabit-speed connectivity. ... The issue is simple: these communities want to determine their own path."

In August of this year, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the FCC had exceeded the authority granted through the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which allows the commission to preempt state laws it determines stand in the way of broadband expansion. Claiming that the FCC’s ruling interferes with state sovereignty and exceeds the FCC’s authority, the States of Tennessee and North Carolina petitioned the Sixth Circuit court for reversal. While admitting that it lacked the power to preempt state laws that forbid deployment of municipal broadband networks, the FCC argued before the three-judge panel that it was fulfilling its Congressional mandate under Section 706 in preempting state laws that restrict the expansion of municipal networks that are already in place. Though emphasizing that “we do not question the public benefits that the FCC identifies in permitting municipalities to expand ... Internet coverage,” Judge John Rogers wrote that “this preemption by the FCC of the allocation of power between a state and its subdivisions requires at least a clear statement in the authorizing federal legislation.” Because the FCC premised its preemption authority upon Section 706, which the court found “falls far short of such a clear statement,” the court ultimately agreed with the states in concluding that the FCC exceeded its authority.

After the ruling, the FCC submitted that they would not appeal or seek further review of the decision. By the fall, Wilson and Chattanooga were once again barred from expanding beyond their boundaries.

View the ruling.

The Connected State

The Connected StateMCNC supports a collaborative environment in North Carolina, and we are proud to be considered a thought leader and convener in the local, state, and national networking community. MCNC has a great deal of technical expertise and deep roots in local communities. We know that with the right people working on these challenges, we can be successful in making North Carolina the most connected state in the country.

Incumbent service providers like telephone companies and cable TV companies will continue to provide connectivity in some areas. New types of providers like Google and Ting will enter the market, too. As smart grid efforts expand, electric co-ops also may leverage that work to provide fiber to the home. And, in some communities where no other good options are available, the local municipality may want to provide service. One size does not fit all and MCNC does not have a preference for nor does it promote any of these options over the other but does believe all possibilities need to be considered to ensure the greatest possible proliferation of advanced broadband Internet in North Carolina. In this spirit, MCNC will continue its commitment to providing operational excellence in all of its work.

Complex Environment Beyond Fiber

MCNC is both a customer and a provider of telecom services. Through our services provided to education, health care, research, public safety and many other community anchor institutions, MCNC has developed the expertise and is a resource many seek in North Carolina.

NCREN is the people's broadband and smart broadband for North Carolina starts with MCNC. But, success in rural broadband deployments does not simply mean installing fiber-optic networks. MCNC serves as a convener, broker and active partner to assist communities anywhere and anytime in North Carolina.

“There are still significant areas of rural North Carolina where high-speed Internet is not available to local residents, and this is simply unacceptable in today's world," said MCNC President and CEO Jean Davis. "Hospitals, schools, businesses, and residents in these areas of the state deserve nothing less than the ability to connect and compete in today’s global marketplace. MCNC has outlined connectivity priorities for the state to support these growth markets so consumers can see more competition, lower costs, and better overall services.”

MCNC’s vision through 2020 and beyond is to leverage NCREN to expand stakeholder engagement in MCNC’s constituent community while creating unprecedented opportunities for North Carolinians where they live, access education, seek economic gain, participate in their governance, and access health care.

"There are still significant areas of rural North Carolina where high-speed Internet is not available to local residents, and this is simply unacceptable in today's world. Hospitals, schools, businesses, and residents in these areas of the state deserve nothing less than the ability to connect and compete in today’s global marketplace. MCNC has outlined connectivity priorities for the state to support these growth markets so consumers can see more competition, lower costs, and better overall services." --Jean Davis, President and CEO MCNC

“MCNC has built the nation’s most future-proof network for the entire state of North Carolina, and these communities need an active partner like MCNC to convene both public and private entities to assist those communities seeking to accelerate their broadband-based economies,” added Tom Rabon, chairman of MCNC Board of Directors.

MCNC currently provides Internet connectivity and technology services to more than 500 community anchor institutions in North Carolina. MCNC has and will continue to develop partnerships with telecom providers, technology firms, local governments and others throughout North Carolina to explore new technologies, run pilot projects and find creative ways to bring together the resources in every inch of the state. Finally, MCNC is much more than just an Internet provider, but a full-service technology resource that gives North Carolina a massive competitive advantage over other states while creating unprecedented opportunities for its citizens.

Think Big, Long Term

There will be a day in the very near future when consumers will need 100Mbps or 1G connectivity at home and businesses will need 10G in order to be competitive. No other state in the country possesses a statewide, open access fiber network like NCREN. The best part is there was no outlay of state funds required for the investment. 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.