Education: High-speed route to fast-track learning
In North Carolina, we provided MCNC with access to engineering and construction resources that allowed it to tap into this backbone and provide 10G broadband to K–12 school district hubs, as well as other schools across the state. Announced in January 2020, this partnership has now provided high-speed internet access to nearly 50,000 students at 76 schools in the region.
Those tens of thousands of young North Carolinians are now benefiting from greater connectivity to one another, their teachers, and their schools’ online resources. But they are also able to use the faster connection at their schools to enroll in distance learning courses, such as those offered by NCSSM. “Every student, regardless of their zip code, should have access to the special sauce that we have here at the NCSSM,” says Lathan.
NCSSM says the enhanced connectivity has allowed it to roll out its distance learning courses, which include advanced organic chemistry and multivariable calculus, to students at 26 new schools. And Lathan is looking forward to watching high-speed broadband transform the way that high schoolers learn. “We used to see students going to McDonald’s or getting on buses in the parking lot of Walmart to participate in a live, synchronous class because they didn’t have access to high-speed internet at their homes,” he says.
Lathan tells of a recent student who signed up for NCSSM genetics and biotechnology course on a whim, fell in love with the subject, and eventually won nationwide research contests and a scholarship to a university in North Carolina. “All of this began from access to courses that we taught,” he says. “The return on investment is absolutely there,” he adds.
Health care: Opening more doors to wellness
High-speed broadband will also significantly boost access to virtual health and telemedicine technology in the state’s rural communities, where several public hospitals have recently closed, says Reddy. “Getting these kinds of networks into these rural areas will help to close that digital divide.”
Lack of access to a fast, reliable broadband connection can have serious consequences for families who live in rural communities. “Let’s say a child needs antibiotics because they have an infection, but they can’t reach a doctor to have an assessment done via the phone or the video,” explains Reddy, a clinician. “That could mean a delay in care, which can lead to adverse outcomes.”
Broad access to telemedicine has become increasingly important during the era of COVID-19. “Once [the pandemic] hit, video visits or electronic consultations were the only way we could take care of our patients, especially the ones that needed it most,” says Reddy. He explains that the quality of the connection matters because clinicians rely on internet-based electronic medical records to register and treat their patients. “Resolution and stability are also super important to see the things we want to see, such as when it’s a skin complaint or a post-op wound check,” he says.
Our partnership with MCNC has enabled faster and more reliable connectivity, which ultimately promotes digital equity and inclusion and drives the digital economy. “A lack of connectivity is like a lack of any other infrastructure — if you don’t provide it, people are going to go somewhere else,” explains Senator Tillis. He adds, “This [partnership] is going to plant a seed for growth and opportunities that wouldn’t exist otherwise.”