debate satellite vs. cable vs. DSL for hours, days and months -- its unending."

What to Do

While there is no hard and fast template to work from when brokering this type of deal -- given the inherent differences in states infrastructures, relationships with telecommunications companies and geographic distribution of population -- North Carolinas deal does offer a platform to build on.

"When we started this, there were very few precedents to go by," said Runkle. "There are still few, if any, statewide precedents. There are a lot of isolated groups and regions that have addressed this, but not many states have addressed it on a statewide basis like we have."

First, while all parties agreed to a clear set of goals and objectives -- what Boney called the "proposal behind the proposal" -- they didnt let themselves be derailed by the means to those ends.

"The task force was asked to suggest solutions for and ways of carrying out every public-policy goal that they recommended," said Boney. "In this case, the telephone companies came up with a proposal that met the public-policy goals, although it differed from the specific means that the task force suggested. There was no objection to that on the part of the task force members. The public-policy goal was to ensure ubiquitous access within three years, and the idea proposed by the ILECs was something that would enable us to do that."

Telecommunications companies need to create their own business cases when they participate in this sort of deal, and they know what they can or cant do, said Boney. "Every state is going to be different, and we have public-minded ILECs in the state that saw the importance of doing this to the people they serve and were able to be creative in finding a way that they could make money in the process. What I personally care about is that theyve agreed to meet this goal."

Second, North Carolina created an inventory of what telecommunications facilities were in place. This could well have been the most exhausting part of getting the deal off the ground. "We have a complete inventory of whats out there," said Runkle. "There are 431 end telephone offices in North Carolina. We know whats in each one of them: what the capabilities are, how many switches; what the charges are for the services; and what the population is around them. We also know what range of population around those offices can be served by such technologies as DSL.

"Knowing what youve got, in detail, is very important," he continued. "You cant get anywhere without knowing that. Its grunt work. Let me tell you, its hard to get that inventory."

But having that inventory will help target the geographic areas that need connectivity; how much money will be required to get the connectivity to those areas; and provide participants with ways to formulate concrete answers to questions, such as: What is the problem? How big is the problem? Where is the problem? and How will your

recommendations solve the problem?

Third, state representatives stressed opening the deal-making process to all possible participants.

"The key to putting the deal together is to have as many people involved as possible," said Runkle. "There [are] so many interest groups now -- youve got CLECs, ILECs, the inter-exchange carriers --it doesnt do you any good to have connectivity if you dont have an ISP. Youve got a variety of players, and any one of them can be potential show-stoppers. Diplomacy may be a key success factor, and the lack of diplomacy is a key failure indicator."



1. Provide local dial-up Internet access from every