MCNC is the prime contractor for the NCTN with the N.C. State Government Department of Information Technology (DIT) as a key sub-contractor. MCNC is an independent, non-profit organization that employs advanced networking technologies and systems to help various sectors of Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs) in North Carolina communicate with their peers more effectively to meet their specific organization's mission, vision, and goals. For more than a quarter century, MCNC has operated a robust, secure, exclusive communications network that has connected institutions of the University of North Carolina System, Duke University, and Wake Forest University to each other and, through advanced research networks such as Internet2 and National Lambda Rail, to the world.
Over the past several years, MCNC has expanded the reach of its services to non-profit and university health care organizations, hospitals, public safety, libraries, and other key CAIs. Through two Broadband Technology Opportunities (BTOP) grants and other private investments, MCNC invested over $140M in a network infrastructure that is able to meet the rapidly increasing bandwidth demands and shared services needs of North Carolina-based CAIs for the foreseeable future. MCNC’s role in NCTN is the result of a competitive bidding process involving all of the major broadband providers in NC. For MCNC, supporting health care institutions is not just business-–it is at the core of its mission as a non-profit.
The Cabarrus Health Alliance is a non-profit public health authority in North Carolina that has a high profile role in many regional and statewide initiatives. CHA is operating as the “project coordinator” for NCTN from the FCC’s perspective. CHA is the formal counterparty in the contracts with MCNC to operate the NCTN.
How will the users’ interests in the NCTN be managed?
The NCTN technical design is complemented by an operational and developmental management process that includes features to assure that the service level is high and that new needs are addressed. This approach involves the engagement of key user-representative groups in developing the NCTN and monitoring its operation (notably the NC Hospital Association and NC Association of Local Health Directors). The process supports a community approach to networking.
Users will have continuous access to performance data for their links–including throughput and any outages. Users are represented on a group that interacts with MCNC on a regular basis to assess performance against contractual obligations and user expectations. The group has the opportunity to make special assessments of network performance (e.g., in the aftermath of storms). The purpose of this administrative feature of the NCTN is to better assure that users’ needs are more often anticipated and met. This administrative feature of NCTN where users can speak both individually and as a group in a pro-active way is very different from the typical way that service performance in managed by a commercial broadband provider. We expect to form an NCTN Association, an association of NCTN users. The NCTNA is planned to be the formal way in which users influence the NCTN’s operation and extension in the long run.
During the developmental stage of the NCTN, the project sought and has found eager collaborators in several key user groups in the state. Notably, the NC Hospital Association, NC Association Local Health Directors, and the NC Association of Free Clinics have had key roles in assuring that the NCTN project serves their members. We expect the input to continue during the operational life of the NCTN.
The network vendor is required to support a 24/7 network operations center with SLA-governed response goals. The registered contact(s) for a given subscriber’s site has phone, email, and web access to the NOC for the purpose of reporting, updating, and monitoring problem resolution. Similarly, the NOC knows who the site contact(s) are and how to reach them 24/7 when needed to report or avert a problem. The oversight group reviews incidents regularly to detect patterns of issues that may require steps in addition to the acute resolution.