Benefits and Features

The Basics

The NCTN is a dedicated network for health care providers in N.C. with transparent attachments to the Internet and Internet2. “Dedicated” means that the communications on NCTN subscribers (currently N.C. hospitals, public health clinics, and free clinics) won’t go over the Internet-- and so won’t be exposed to the delays, reliability issues, and extra security risks of the Internet. This architecture create1s both a subscriber community general transport and the ability to serve the same functions as a set of point-to-point links between NCTN subscribers. The network is non-blocking; that is, all subscribers can run at the maximum of their service capacity simultaneously without degradation to any subscriber.

These features, in combination with administrative and other technical facilities, are designed to provide NC health care providers with a highly reliable, high capacity, low cost, “smooth” network with the dependability level that befits organizations providing life support services and community disaster response. Public non-profit health care providers who subscribe to the NCTN receive up to a 65% discount on the competed commercial cost of the broadband NCTN service provided by the FCC’s Healthcare Connect Fund. The current discounts last for 3 years.

Stability of the Discount

The up-to 65% discount from the HCF program is from the USF (Universal Service Funds); it does not depend on congressional allocation. Thus whatever the US congress does or does not do about the budget this year or any year should not impact these funds.

Security/Reliability

The NCTN is a dedicated network for NC health care providers with links to the commodity Internet and to Internet2 (a very high-speed national backbone). This means that the NCTN subscribers can converse among themselves without crossing the Internet. NCTN sites can, of course, converse with any Internet-connected entity. NCTN sites also can converse with any Internet2-connected entity (e.g., almost all academic medical centers in the country) without crossing the Internet. NCTN also is connected to key data centers (e.g. the State’s Raleigh data center) and setup for other connections (e.g., NCHEX, EMR vendors, etc) as users and vendors find the connection useful. The physical, administrative, and contractual (SLA) features of the NCTN are designed to provide very high reliability in support of health care providers who must quickly resume operations in the presence or aftermath of the disastrous weather conditions that commonly impact North Carolina (floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms). We call this disaster resistance. For example, all NCTN circuits are registered with the FCC’s TSP program which requires that these sites be given priority over non-TSP users when vendors are restoring services (e.g,. a back hoe outage or repairs after a major storm). So, hospitals will be back up before the local Starbucks.

Security/Reliability

The NCTN is a dedicated network for NC health care providers (currently public health, hospitals, free clinics, and community health centers- for now) with links to the commodity Internet and to Internet2 (a very high-speed national backbone). This means that the NCTN subscribers can converse among themselves without crossing the Internet. NCTN sites can, of course, converse with any Internet-connected entity. NCTN sites also can converse with any Internet2-connected entity (e.g., almost all academic medical centers in the country) without crossing the Internet. NCTN also is connected to key data centers (e.g. the State’s Raleigh data center) and setup for other connections (e.g., NCHEX, EMR vendors, etc) as users and vendors find the connection useful. The physical, administrative, and contractual (SLA) features of the NCTN are designed to provide very high reliability in support of health care providers who must quickly resume operations in the presence or aftermath of the disastrous weather conditions that commonly impact North Carolina (floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms). We call this disaster resistance. For example, all NCTN circuits are registered with the FCC’s TSP program which requires that these sites be given priority over non-TSP users when vendors are restoring services (e.g,. a back hoe outage or repairs after a major storm). So, hospitals will be back up before the local Starbucks.

Capacity

The NCTN offers of bandwidth (e.g., a 100mbps link) are backed by a network design that delivers the amount of throughput stated. The industry terminology is the NCTN is a non-blocking network. For example, a “100mbps” NCTN link provides 100mbps of throughput bi-directionally simultaneously on the NCTN itself and through the Internet connection points. This is in contrast to typical commercial offerings where the stated bandwidth is provided only on a “best effort” basis and frequently is over-subscribed so that the actual throughput varies below the service’s nominal bandwidth. So, even without a discount, you get more throughput for your money with NCTN than with the typical commercial service offering.