A new agreement between North Carolina officials and the state's three major communications companies aims to bring high-speed Internet access to the entire state by 2002.
A new agreement between North Carolina officials and the state's three major
communications companies aims to bring high-speed Internet access to the
entire state by 2002.
BellSouth Corp., Sprint and GTE Corp. have agreed to work with Internet
service providers, telephone cooperatives, the state government and others
in the industry in order to reach the goal.
Driving the agreement is the idea that Internet access is crucial to
decreasing the economic disparity between rural and urban areas.
"Affordable, high-speed Internet access is a key competitive factor
for economic development and quality of life in the new economy of the global
marketplace," the agreement's preamble reads. "In the Digital Age, universal
connectivity at affordable prices is a necessity for business transactions,
education and training, health care, government services and the democratic
Melinda Pierson, the Commerce Department's public information officer, said
that although the agreement was struck several weeks ago, the details of
how the goal will be reached have not been finalized. A nonprofit board
will be established to work out how to reach the goal. That board will include
representatives from the three companies and state and local government
Pierson said that in most areas the companies will pay to build the
high-speed network, but in areas in which the companies would lose money,
the state would provide tax incentives or low-interest loans.
The agreement also spelled out six other goals that the board will implement:
* Provide dial-up access from every phone exchange within one year.
* Establish two pilot telework centers in the poorest areas of the state.
The centers, to be established within the next 18 months, will provide computers
and Internet access to residents.
* Provide more residents with computers, Internet devices and subscriptions
throughout the state.
* Provide information regularly to citizens about the availability and
future of telecom and Internet services.
* Promote development of electronic government applications.
* Employ "open technology approaches" to encourage potential Internet
providers to provide access without bias.
The agreement began with a recommendation in the Rural Prosperity Task
Force report, presented to Gov. Jim Hunt earlier this year.
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