Local News

Hunt's Statewide Internet Plan Will Require Manpower, Equipment and Money

Posted April 26, 2000 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Governor Hunt promised it would take three years to connect every North Carolinian and every business to the Internet. It is a huge job that will require manpower, equipment and a lot of money.

If and when the job is complete, it will put North Carolina in a much more competitive position, especially in rural areas.

"If those rural counties can't get it at all or they've got to pay a high premium, then they're not economically competitive in today's world," says State Secretary of Commerce Rick Carlisle.

Leveling the price and speed of Internet access is the goal. BellSouth, GTE and Sprint form the core of a larger group of businesses that will tackle the problem community by community.

"The idea very simply is one size does not fit all," says Clifton Metcalf of BellSouth. "We need to look at the individual needs and then address those."

Phone companies are looking at multiple solutions, and there is no way yet to figure the cost.

"There's still a great amount of information that's got to be gathered before we can put an actual price tag on this," says Rick Webb, North Carolina Chief Information Officer. "A lot of information needs to be gathered before we can determine where best we could utilize state funds or state resources through tax credits or other incentives to make that happen."

Phone companies and Internet Service Providers hope to make money in the future on the investment, but it is a tough business plan.

"There could be an instance where the classic business case simply does not work economically, and that's where the state comes in," Metcalf says.

There is no word as to whether taxes of some type might be needed, or whether some of the costs borne by the companies will be passed along to consumers.

BellSouth presented a plan Thursday to the State Utilities Commission to spend almost $100 million during the next two years to expand digital subscriber line access in North Carolina.