Sprint-APEC $14,6 million partnership to expand broadband access, enhancing health care quality in Eastern North Carolina

Greenville 17 August 2004An innovative $14,6 million public-private partnership between Sprint and the Albemarle-Pamlico Economic Development Corporation (APEC) will lead to dramatic communications infrastructure enhancements in eastern North Carolina. Sprint and APEC officials, legislative leaders and plan partners praised the plan, which immediately will begin expanding the availability of broadband access, telehealth and e-learning capabilities east of Interstate 95, and will provide a boost for economic development efforts statewide.


"North Carolina's spirit of innovation has come through again", stated Steve Parrott, state executive for the Carolinas, Sprint. "This project helps remove some barriers and bridge some gaps in the state's broadband, telehealth and e-learning resources, and it helps ensure that eastern North Carolina will take a strong leading and supporting role in the state's evolution as an educational and technological showcase for the rest of the nation."

The Sprint/APEC plan, which includes multiple elements, fulfils APEC's original goals, which include achieving enhanced broadband access for rural residential and business customers; achieving substantial availability to rural citizens and businesses by 2004; developing a model for rural regions that can be applied on a much broader basis; and promoting economic development, job-growth opportunities, educational and health care enhancement, and community enrichment through improved rural infrastructure deployment.

Contained in the plan are:

  • Expanded broadband connectivity across the region, both residential and business;
  • A gigabit Ethernet network for University Health Systems (UHS) and the northeastern portion of MCNC's statewide research and education network (NCREN);
  • A K-20 Eastern North Carolina e-Learning pilot project;
  • Completion of a 12-county self-healing fiber-optic ring to protect the network;
  • Sprint's purchase of most of APEC's existing conduit infrastructure to support additional network capacity and meet the expected demand for new broadband services in eastern North Carolina;
  • In terms of overall investment, Sprint is providing about $6,4 million of the funding, while APEC, the Golden LEAF Foundation, UHS, the eNC Authority, formerly the Rural Internet Access Authority, and MCNC will provide the remaining $8,2 million.

"We believe that what we are doing for eastern North Carolina can be used as a model for public-private initiatives anywhere in the nation"," said Cliff Copeland, chairman of APEC and county manager of Chowan County. "Such partnerships help make the best use of existing resources, supplementing them where needed, and allow the partners to focus their valuable investment dollars on innovative solutions."

"The Eastern North Carolina Broadband Initiative caps a year of negotiation, planning and development between Sprint and APEC", Steve Parrott stated. "With the invaluable counsel, ideas and financial support of the other partners, we are taking an already robust network to a higher level through a variety of important enhancements."

The broadband expansion includes Sprint DSL deployment to 65 central offices and smaller remote switches in 21 rural counties earlier than market factors would have allowed. Counties in the accelerated deployment include Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Camden, Carteret, Columbus, Currituck, Duplin, Gates, Greene, Hertford, Hyde, Martin, Northampton, Onslow, Pamlico, Perquimans, Robeson, Sampson, Washington and Wilson.

The gigabit Ethernet telehealth and data network will connect UHS, Greenville; Bertie Memorial Hospital, Windsor; Chowan Hospital, Edenton; Heritage Hospital, Tarboro; Roanoke-Chowan Hospital, Ahoskie; and Outer Banks Hospital, Dare County. At speeds 650 times faster than current bandwidth, it will dramatically enhance the quality of remote diagnostic capabilities.

Through the North Carolina Research and Education Network, operated by MCNC for the 16-campus UNC system, the project ties in high-speed connectivity among Elizabeth City State University, East Carolina University and the Center for Marine Science and Technology in Morehead City. The network supports MCNC's Grid computing initiative, enabling and enhancing e-learning across the UNC system and other institutions.

The Eastern North Carolina e-Learning Project will complement distance learning services currently available from the state's ITS network and will provide integrated K-20 networking for selected locations across the region to provide high-speed access by public school systems to digital content available from the UNC System and the Community College System. The project will serve as a model for similar educational initiatives across the state.

Sprint is a global integrated communications provider serving more than 26 million customers in over 100 countries. With more than 61.000 employees worldwide and over $26 billion in annual revenues in 2003, Sprint is widely recognized for developing, engineering and deploying state-of-the-art network technologies, including the United States' first nationwide all-digital, fiber-optic network and an award-winning Tier 1 Internet backbone. Sprint provides local communications services in 39 states and the District of Columbia and operates the largest 100-percent digital, nationwide PCS wireless network in the United States.

Leslie Versweyveld

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