Published by Wral Tech Wire on June 6, 2019
By Catherine Truitt
RALEIGH — Last fall in a panel discussion at the Gig East event in Wilson, moderator Tom Ruhe of the NC IDEA Foundation asked: “Where are the Red Hats of tomorrow going to come from?”
The panelists concurred that there’s no reason why the next Red Hat – currently being acquired by IBM for $34 billion – can’t come from a small city or rural area, if several challenges are met.
Presently, 80 of North Carolina’s 100 counties are considered rural, with an average population density of 250 or fewer people per square mile. Although these counties are largely reliant on agriculture and manufacturing, high-tech innovation and entrepreneurship can occur if obstacles to high-speed internet access, education and support are overcome.
At the NC Rural Center’s Rural Day event in March, presenters discussed how broadband is now a key in determining a community’s success in a global economy. “Broadband is essential infrastructure in the 21st century,” NC Rural Center President Patrick Woodie told WRAL TechWire.
The Rural Center proposes a four-pronged approach:
- Expand the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) grant program from $10 million to $30 million per year;
- Clarify the role of local governments in public-private partnerships designed to expand broadband access;
- Implement a statewide dig-once policy to coordinate efforts to reduces costs incurred by installing infrastructure;
- Explore an initiative to fund digital literacy programs, incentivize ISPs to offer low-cost options in targeted areas, and options for vouchers for residents in underserved areas.
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