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Learning Network Will Link Brunswick To Information Highway'
BY SUSAN USHER
Coming soon to Brunswick County: the highway to
During 1W4 two local campuses will he linked by
fiber optic network to educational facilities in Pender
and New Hanover counties, and to resources across
A $484,452 grant from the federal Rural Electri
fication Administration announced last week will help
cover the cost of adding West Brunswick High School in
Shallotte and the main campus of Brunswick Com
munity College at Supply to the Cape Fear Educational
Partnership Network based at UNCW.
Also to be added are Southeastern Community
College in Whiteville. Cape Fear Community Colleges 's
Pender County campus, and Topsail and Pender high
"The whole nation will be watching this expansion
closely." said Scott Carpenter of the UNCW Division of
Public Service. "The national information highway is
happening here. now. This thing is really going to be
great for New Hanover. Brunswick and Pender counties.
The main thing is to get it out there where users can take
advantage of it."
The project will double the size of the network. Its
existing members are UNC Wilmington. Cape Fear
Community College, New Hanover and Hoggard high
schools and New Hanover Regional Medical Center.
UNCW. in turn, is linked to the Microelectronic Center
of North Carolina at Research Triangle Park, which
houses a CRAY supercomputer.
The electronic information network connects new
technologies such as fiber optic cables and digitalized
switches with products such as telephones, computers
and televisions. Then, through a single line running to a
site, services such as video teleconferencing, shared
classrooms and long-distance library/database research
One goal of the network is to shrink the differences
in opportunity for rural versus urban residents of the state.
Presently the New Hanover County high schools al
ready use the network to teach Japanese and oceanogra
phy. A distance-learning classroom is equipped with
video cameras, televisions and microphones to allow
two-way interaction. Participants at any site can ask
questions of anyone they see on the TV monitors.
Possible expanded uses of the network include addi
tional courses shared among high schools and communi
ty college courses for high school students involved in
Tech Prep. Carpenter said some of the biggest changes
will be evident with the community collegtu.
Fiber Optics Cabling To Schools
Fits Info Overall ATMC Upgrade
Installing cabling required for local sites to join the
Cape Fear Learning Partnership Network is iust part of
a much larger fiber optics upgrade Atlantic Telephone
Membership Corp. began in 1989.
Engineering supervisor Delane Stanley said that by
the time the current project is completed, ATMC will
have doubled its fiber optic cable in the ground to 150
miles. The cable supports both the cooperative's tele
phone and cable television (CATV) services.
"You can't beat fiber optics for purity and clarity of
transmission, but it's not cheap," he said.
A fiber optic "ring" is being created that will pro
tect systems, especially ATMC's toll-line trunk, if a ca
ble is cut. For example, if a cable is cut between Shal
lotte and Supply, the fiber ring will automatically
switch telephone traffic along another route, with no
loss of service.
During the four-lane improvement of U.S. 17 long
distance telephone service has been interrupted several
times because there was no protection in the event of
All switching facilities across the service district are
being upgraded to fiber optics. As cable is laid crews are
"Southeastern. Brunswick and Cape Fear will be
able to exchange and share programs. The state is work
ing out the logistics such as pay and course credits."
Brunswick Community College committed six to
eight months ago to distance learning. President Michael
Reaves said the first classroom will be housed in the
AL.S building, and the new Allied Health Building will
be wired for fiber optics during its construction.
Eventually BCC's Leland Industrial Center and
Southport campuses will be added to the network, along
with North Brunswick and South Brunswick high
"I'm just glad Brunswick County is close now to be
ing on the cutting edge of technology," said Reaves.
"It's a tremendous commitment. We're stepping up our
efforts. We want to be on line no later than fall (1994)."
West Brunswick High Principal Ed Lemon shares
Reaves' excitement about the network's potential.
"I think anything's possible," said Ed Lemon, princi
pal of West Brunswick High School. "We're excited
adding the fibers needed for the "information highway"
at all potential connection sites identified to date.
There will still be some gaps to be filled once this
project is complete, including running fiber optics
from Bolivia to Boiling Spring Lakes.
ATMC is also replacing its five microwave sites
with 12 fiber nodes.
"That will allow us to serve areas (with cable TV)
that we can't serve now without building more mi
crowave sites," Stanley said. "And that would lie fool
ish with changing technology."
A joint project with Southern Bell will provide
ATMC a second connecting point with Southern Bell's
fiber optic system. The current connecting point is near
Bishop, at the intersection of U.S. 17 and N.C. 87
north. The new link would be at Bolton.
Southern Bell plans to build a fiber optic ring to pro
tect CP&L's Brunswick Nuclear Plant and surrounding
customers from telephone service interruption. ATMC
and Southern Bell will cooperate in extending fiber op
tic cable up N.C. 21 1 from Supply to Bolton.
"This is going to be a huge advantage for Atlantic
Telephone," said Stanley.
about that kind of thing. It's just w ide open."
Long-distance learning and telecommunications
skills are among the school's computer education goals
for all students, he said, which prompted interest in the
network from the beginning. The school's technology
committee is charged with planning how the school will
put its network access to best use.
The matching money for hook-up is included in this
year's schools technology budget. Ixmon said the main
drawback at West is a facility, since the school is already
so short on space five teachers are housed in mobile
classrooms. A planned addition won't be ready until
spring 1994 at the earliest.
"But we'll live with it to get the fiber optics." he said.
"Our community is fortunate to get to participate in this."
The network link will not only benefit West
Brunswick students and faculty, but the entire county
school system through areas such as staff development
"Anywhere you have a campus you need to have
this." said Delane Stanley, engineering supervisor for
Atlantic Telephone Membership Corp., which is laying
the fiber optic cable for the local sites. "You think about
teachers going away for recertification. I hey 'II be able
to do that right here."
Of the 28 grants totaling 55 million awarded b\
REA nationwide, the area network is receiving one-tenth
of the money granted. It will be matched by $121,114
from the new sites schools joining the network.
The Cape Fear network is a test project for the
state's North Carolina Information Highway, a statewide
telecommunications network that will be on the cutting
edge of rapid transmission technology when completed
next June. It is the first statewide broadband networking
effort in the United Slates.
BellSouth. GTE Telephone Operations and Carolina
Telephone will build, maintain and own the physical
highway, with the state as a guaranteed customer. The
highway will be phased in under Jane Patterson, senior
policy adviser to the governor, and the Information
Resource Management Commission headed by Secre
tary of State Rufus Edmisten.
With a pledge to give top priority to rural areas, the
state has budgeted about $4.4 million to help bring the
first 104 sites onto its highway, paying their long-dis
tance telephone charges for the first IS months.
Schools and medical facilities will be among those
first sites connected to the highway. Future phases will
take in other state agencies and their local offices? such
as law enforcement, the courts, health and social ser
vices at the Brunswick County Government Center and
the N.C. Department of Transportation, private sector
clients and eventually, even homes.
While the state "information highway" is being com
pleted. the Cape Eear Learning Partnership Network.
ATMC and Southern Bell will be busy preparing to
make the connections.
Specific site plans must be developed for each net
work affiliate. Distance learning classrooms must have
controlled environments, be physically secure, be wired
for the cable and be properly equipped for communica
tion with other sites.
Gov. Jim Hunt and other state leaders expect North
Carolina's "information highway" to improve education
and health care opportunities for rural residents and to
provide a competitive edge in economic development
UNC'W Chancellor James R. Leutze envisions a
similar boost for Southeastern North Carolina.
"That's why we thought it important for this region
to be on (the highway) first," said Carpenter.
STAFF PHOTO BY SUSAN USHER
Vendors were packing their wares Oct. 30 at the N.C. Festival By
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S.C., and Sandy Dillard of High Point, spirits undampened, fin
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visitor, Goforth said she '11 he back.
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