In recent years when Guilford County commissioners have met with other county commissioners about what’s needed in the state to ensure its continued economic success, one of the things that always comes up near the top of the list is a need for better and more widespread broadband service.

This is particularly needed in the more rural parts of the state where options are often severely limited or even non-existent.

Guilford County Commissioner Kay Cashion, who’s often the county’s representative to the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, frequently reports back to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners about that group’s efforts in this regard – however, for many people in rural areas, the progress has been way too slow.

A current statewide initiative hopes to change that.

This week, the “Connecting Counties Task Force” met with AT&T and Corning Optical Communications to discuss solutions for fiber deployment in underserved areas of the state. The meeting, which was held in Mecklenburg County, was the latest step in the statewide effort to address broadband access for “unserved and under-served communities” in North Carolina.  The county officials on the Task Force met with the executives in large part to increase their understanding of the process of fiber development and deployment.

At the meeting, Task Force members heard presentations that included ways local governments can become effective partners in the fiber deployment process.

Corning’s operations in the state include two of the world’s largest optical fiber and cable manufacturing sites.  The Task Force calls that fiber and cable “the backbone of today’s broadband networks.”

Also at the meeting, NCACC President and Washington County Commissioner Tracey Johnson discussed the need to develop partnerships and share information more widely.

“It was a pleasure to have the task force hosted by AT&T and Corning,” she said after the meeting.  “We learned a lot about the broadband deployment process and how counties can partner with fiber and service providers to serve residents best.”

Trey Rabon, the president of AT&T North Carolina, said the meeting was very beneficial all around.

In a statement released after the conference, he said, “Even before the pandemic, people increasingly relied on the internet to stay connected with their family, friends and communities. Our experience shows that the demand for broadband is here to stay and will continue to grow as society continues to embrace an ever-connected world. That’s why AT&T is committed to working through local, state, and federal programs to close the digital divide.”

The Task Force will continue to meet this year to work toward ways to quickly expand broadband where it’s most needed in the state.