N.C. Forms Partnership for High-Speed Net Access for Citizens

N.C. Forms Partnership for High-Speed Net Access for Citizens

By Jennifer Freer, Staff Writer

APRIL 26 ? Gov. James Hunt (D) of North Carolina announced April 26 an agreement between three major communications companies and the state government to bring high-speed Internet access to all citizens of the state in three years.

BellSouth Corp., Sprint Corp. and GTE Corp. will work with Internet service providers, telephone cooperatives, the state government and others in the communications industry to provide affordable Internet access to all areas of the state, especially rural regions, according to a release from Hunt's office. The announcement did not elaborate on how the state would provide both affordable and high-speed Internet access.

The agreement was recommended by the Rural Prosperity Task Force report, presented to Hunt earlier this year. It will be carried out by a nonprofit entity, created by legislation or an executive order of the governor. The board will include representatives from each of the communications stakeholders along with state and local government representatives.

Funding details for the plan were not disclosed.

Erskine Bowles, head of the task force and a former aide to President Clinton, said this agreement "will ensure that all North Carolinians, regardless of where they live, will have equal access and equal opportunity for success." The U.S. Commerce Department reported that less than 20 percent of households in North Carolina have Internet access.

The agreement also includes plans to: help more people across the state own computers and Internet-related equipment, help citizens get information on the availability of Internet services, promote the development of e-government applications, and establish two pilot Telework Centers in the state's most economically distressed counties within the next 18 months.

The centers will serve as a place where residents can go to conduct business over Internet connections at affordable rates.

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