WCU CHANCELLOR HAILS HIGH-SPEED INTERNET
AS HISTORIC ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT STEP FOR WNC
FLAT ROCK - Western Carolina University Chancellor John W. Bardo called
the announcement Tuesday, Jan. 22, of federal assistance to bring affordable
high-speed Internet access to rural Western North Carolina potentially
the most significant economic development in the history of the mountain
Bardo, chairman of the Education and Research Consortium of the Western
Carolinas, served as moderator for a press conference held by U.S. Rep.
Charles Taylor on the campus of Blue Ridge Community College to announce
$4.3 million in initial federal funding for the project, with a total
of $15 million possible by the years end. The history of
economic development in the United States is usually tied to technology
and shifts in technology - the railroad, the interstate, the airport.
But, if were going to succeed in the 21st century as a region,
its important that we be immediately available to those in the
rest of the world through electronic communications, Bardo said.
| Joe Crocker, chairman of the Western Carolina University board
of trustees (left), WCU Chancellor John Bardo (center) and U.S.
Rep. Charles Taylor (right) display a section of the type of broadband
cable that will soon bring high-speed Internet access to Western
North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina. Taylor announced federal
funding for the program at a press conference Tuesday, Jan. 22,
moderated by Bardo, chairman of the Education and Research Consortium
of the Western Carolinas.
Today, Congressman Taylors announcement allows this region
to leap forward to become competitive in the world economy, he
said. It will make it possible for us to enjoy the absolutely
wonderful quality of life we have in this area, to take advantage of
the great work ethic of the mountain people and to continue to improve
the quality of education. We will be able to combine those things with
new capital formation and infrastructure that will allow this region
to prosper as it never has in the last two centuries.
The project initially calls for nearly 840 miles of existing
and newly constructed fiber optic cable, with state-of-the-art electronic
equipment enabling simultaneous transmission of voice, data and video
signals, with virtually unlimited bandwidth capacity. Those high-capacity
pipelines will advance several other initiatives under way at Western,
Bardo said, includingthe Adventure of the American Mind program to train
teachers in using the digitized resources of the Library of Congress,
and a new partnership with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte
in ultra-high technologies that is expected to jump-start
efforts to bring emerging high-tech industries to WNC.
The plan outlined by Taylor would enable rural, relatively sparsely
populated WNC and Upstate South Carolina - an area with a population
of about 1.5 million people - to pool local demand for access to high-speed
Internet connections called broadband. Combining demand
from the regions schools, libraries, colleges and universities,
health care providers, and private business sector would result in a
much lower cost for the type of telecommunications services necessary
in todays information age, Taylor said.
Western North Carolinians pay up to 10 times more than their urban
counterparts for high-speed Internet access. The service that we receive
is intermittent at best, with poor quality of service. You cant
build a business or a bank or any kind of medical practice around poor
infrastructure, said Jack Cecil, vice chairman of The University
of North Carolina Board of Governors. We wanted to find the optimum
strategy to lower the cost and increase the access for the region.
Collaboration across state lines between public, private and non-profit
concerns to bring broadband access to the rural western Carolinas will
enable the region to address what Cecil called the five tenets
of community development - education, health care, economic development,
arts and culture, and quality of life and environment.
A non-profit spin-off of the Education and Research Consortium will
serve as owner of the fiber optics infrastructure, said Taylor, who
established the ERC in 1997 to help WNC find ways to participate in
the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century. Originally composed
of leaders of WCU, and Brevard, Mars Hill and Montreat colleges, the
consortium now counts the University of North Carolina at Asheville,
area community colleges, and Furman University in South Carolina as
Maintained by the WCU Office of Public Relations
Last modified: Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Western Carolina University