Group considering proposals for ultra high-speed internet

Apr. 04, 2013 @ 06:44 PM

A group of Triangle communities and universities that want to see a private company build out ultra-high speed Internet infrastructure here has received responses from eight potential providers of the technology.

Earlier this year, the Triangle Council of Governments issued a request for proposals for companies to build out an ultra-high speed network that would offer service with speeds up to 100 times faster than typically available.

The council made the request on the behalf of a regional partnership of cities, towns, universities, hospitals and chambers of commerce that includes Chapel Hill, Durham, Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The partnership has been working since last summer to develop a request for proposals that would attract commercial carriers to design, build and manage an ultra-high speed network in the region, according to the website for the initiative, which is called N.C. Next Generation Networks.

The group is working as an offshoot of the national Gig.U project, which is an effort by a conglomeration of top research universities (along with their communities) to drive installation of “next generation” networks.

“We expect this to be a commercial offering that would result from this process that one or more companies would offer directly to business and residences,” said Tracy Futhey, Duke University’s vice president for information technology and chief information officer.

To try to help incentivize a private company to build out a network and sell it to customers, she said the group wants to be able to offer special considerations regarding rights of way and permitting.

Futhey advocated for the network as a necessity for driving business and entrepreneurial innovation in the community.

“It’s pretty clear that any kind of contemporary and cutting edge kinds of research and IT environments really are built on high bandwidth, high capacity,” she said. “This is why so many new startups and innovative companies come out of universities, or so we believe, because we’ve got very high bandwidth on campus. But people leave campuses, and then they have dramatically reduced bandwidth access.”

The council gave an April 1 deadline for proposals. They received eight responses, Futhey said in an email. She said officials are now reviewing them.

The identities and submissions of the responses will be kept confidential until the process is complete and contracts are awarded, she also said.

In its own announcement, Time Warner Cable said that it has submitted a formal bid to play “an integral role” in the project.

“With more than 6,600 employees and 1.6 million customers in North Carolina, Time Warner Cable has a vested interest in the region’s continued success and development,” said Rob Marcus, Time Warner Cable president and chief operating officer, in the news release.