The success and evolution of e-NC Authority

In 2000, the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN) became the nation’s first near-broadcast quality, two-way interactive video system using Internet-based technology (IP using MPEG2) to support up to 20 simultaneous locations in that service with full, continuous presence video and audio for all participants all the time. All participants at remote sites could hear audio and see video from all other sites – exactly how a conversation would work if they were all in the same room.

That same year, Cronos was sold by MCNC to JDS Uniphase Corporation. The proceeds to MCNC enabled more than $100 million investment in the state. The North Carolina General Assembly then created the Rural Internet Access Authority through Senate Bill 1343. MCNC pledged $30 million from the Cronos sale to the Rural Internet Access Authority, which later became the e-NC Authority. The donation helped create the nation’s first statewide broadband authority and accelerated the spread of high-speed Internet access across North Carolina to what we see today.

Of the eight main goals set for the authority, the most critical was to make high-speed Internet access available to all North Carolinians by December 2003. Following the passage of Senate Bill 1343, Governor Jim Hunt appointed UNC Wilmington Chancellor James Leutze to serve as chair of the commission. In December 2000, the commission held its first meeting and named Jane Smith Patterson, then senior advisor to the governor for science and technology, as the authority's executive director.

Patterson has been a tireless advocate for broadband connectivity in North Carolina. She received the Cornerstone Award this year during the 2011 Broadband Properties Summit in Dallas recognizing her extraordinary vision and effectiveness in bringing advanced connectivity to communities. Patterson, also a member of the MCNC Board of Directors, was chosen by an independent panel of judges for her leadership in the field of broadband, and by the example she has set for others across the nation.

“We have to keep that bandwidth coming,” said Patterson. “This is how we will keep North Carolina’s competitive edge. Thank you for 11 years of supporting e-NC, and its commitment to connect all North Carolinians to broadband and a better future.”

Patterson said she is planning to rejoin the private sector next year and continue her advocacy and expertise in broadband connectivity. Tentatively, she has plans to do some work in Hawaii to help on Hawaii Broadband Map Initiative currently in the works.

“Jane is a generational leader in advocating for and causing the deployment and use of broadband to unserved and underserved citizens. North Carolina has benefitted greatly from her contributions and we at MCNC are deeply indebted to her for her vision and leadership,” said Joe Freddoso, president and CEO of MCNC. “Simply put, Jane’s contributions have led North Carolina into the digital age and all its social, educational and economic benefits.”

e-NC has worked through decade of tremendous change. According to this year's e-NC Citizen Survey, 36 percent of households had Internet access in 2000 as opposed to 80 percent today. They have conducted other citizen surveys in 2002, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2011. e-NC has received several awards and accolades over the years including a 2007 Techie Award, a 2006 NCTA Award, 2006 Southern Growth Policies Innovator Award, and has been recognized as a national model by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Other highlights over the years include the Technology Enabled Entrepreneurship - Opportunities Fueling the Future (TEE-OFF) program, more than $2.7 million in e-Communities grants, Public Access Site grants to 31 applicants in 32 counties, $6.6 million in federal funding received to support planning, mapping, capacity building and technical assistance, the High-Speed Internet Access in North Carolina: A 100 County Report, $12 million in Connectivity Incentives grants, dial-up internet access for all citizens of North Carolina in 2001, and assisted North Carolina companies in securing more than $250 million in broadband recovery funding.

This year, e-NC was instrumental in North Carolina’s portion of the National Broadband Map, which was unveiled in 2011 and shows broadband availability across the United States. It was created and now maintained by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), in collaboration with the Federal Communications Commission and in partnership with all 50 states. As the state's designated mapping entity, e-NC was responsible for sending data collected for the North Carolina Broadband Map included on the National Map.

Broadband is critical for communities to thrive in today's globally competitive environment. The e-NC Authority has been responsible for mapping and tracking broadband availability for the state and providing technical assistance for local initiatives to support technology-based economic growth. And, there’s plenty of work still to do by the state.