CARY — The Cary Town Council will consider Thursday whether to join in a quest to build an ultra-fast Internet network 10 to 100 times as fast as typical residential and business Internet service.
A “yes” vote would put Cary on board with governments and universities from Raleigh to Winston-Salem. Together, they hope to find a private partner who would build a “gigabit” network, in part by using existing fiber-optic lines, underground conduits and data centers.
“Even in downtown Cary, it’s hard for a small business to get … a really high-speed connection without a lot of money,” said Bill Stice, technology director for Cary. “The whole idea here is to provide it at a reasonable cost.”
The N.C. Next Generation Network would include Cary, Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh and Winston-Salem, along with several universities – Duke, N.C. State, Wake Forest and UNC-Chapel Hill.
The council must decide whether to join the regional alliance, crafted with the help of Gig.U, a national campaign to jumpstart high-speed Internet development.
Gig.U “is what we consider the biggest … experiment in broadband in the country,” said Ellen Satterwhite, program director for the project, part of the nonprofit Aspen Institute.
In North Carolina, Cary and its allies would expect their private partner to take on the cost of building out and operating the network, though the town would be able to chip in to lay new fiber.
Cary hopes first to provide high-speed digital access to office buildings, businesses, apartment complexes, schools, hospitals and government facilities.
The network also could be the backbone for a public wireless network downtown and, eventually, residential service. The regional group also calls for free or discounted access for low-income areas.