Chapel Hill Town Manager (retired September 2018)
“In an age of shifting economies and fast-paced technological change, a small city like Chapel Hill depends on collaborative support. Fostering a strong relationship with UNC-Chapel Hill continues to be vital for our community as we share infrastructure and collaborate on the delivery of next-generation services.
While many residents don’t really think about it, fiber communication is a critical piece of our infrastructure. This nearly invisible network connects computers, phones, applications, email and the internet. The town-gown collaboration we have enjoyed provides the bandwidth, infrastructure redundancy and options to share resources including backup sites and services.
The town and UNC operate exclusive networks and share their excess capacity. Some UNC facilities are connected using town fiber and some town facilities are connecting using UNC fiber. The benefits have been tremendous. For example, we were able to initiate a joint emergency-operations center in 24 hours to provide response during the Halloween event downtown. Using a combination of UNC and town fiber, no construction was required. Sharing fiber in this way reduces the need for network construction and reduces costs while allowing projects to be completed faster.
The active partnering between the town and UNC ensures that we are competitive in the information and innovation economy. One way we collaborate is through the NC Next Generation Network (NCNGN). The town is one of six member municipalities – and UNC is one of four member universities. Using their combined talents, this group is responsible for multiple vendors bringing gigabit fiber networks to the homes and businesses in the region. This provides internet choices for residents, improves the competitive advantage of the region, provides opportunities for digital inclusion and community engagement.
The town of Chapel Hill and UNC are collaborating on smart city-campus initiatives and an internship program – as well as fiber assets. Bringing together these resources – primarily the respective talent in both organizations – makes Chapel Hill a bustling hub of business, performance and innovation. Through our partnership with UNC, we are creating innovative solutions that are mutually beneficial.
Chapel Hill is fortunate to have a partner like UNC because many small cities do not have access to the robust technologies of a locally based university. Network connectivity has extended throughout our community including Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, the town of Carrboro, the town of Hillsborough, Orange County, Orange Water and Sewer Authority, UNC Health Care and Orange County Schools. When the University collaborates, both are able to help other community partners. For example, we were able to provide dark fiber to the public schools, which replaced expensive, low bandwidth connections. And these new connections have redundant routes to UNC facilities, allowing access to lower cost, faster internet services.
The collaboration between UNC and the town helps to promote entrepreneurship and meet the technology needs of businesses and scholars. It is an important part of our town goals, creating a place for everyone and supporting community prosperity.”