In 1995, Wake Forest University began its plan to embrace information technology through the adoption of its groundbreaking laptop computer program. A cornerstone of the plan was to provide electronic access to the developing resource known as the Internet. To do that, the university deployed 26 miles of fiber optic cable linking its Reynolda and Hawthorne campuses.
From that start grew the movement that in 1997 was named WinstonNet. The goal? To create a technology-rich community with the support of government, civic and educational institutions.
Over the next 20 years, the explosion of the Internet era coincided with the blossoming of WinstonNet’s fiber optic ring and enhanced connections. Those involved began to study how WinstonNet could help the region transform to a modern, information-based economy that relied on education, training and workforce development.
WinstonNet adopted a three-pronged strategy:
- Address the digital divide in the community by providing computer access in recreation centers and churches.
- Begin preparing the workforce for the next generation of supercomputing technologies.
- Enhance the network in Winston-Salem by deploying next-generation, wide area wireless technologies.
During the early years, WinstonNet made significant contributions to the community.
In 2003, WinstonNet dedicated its Computer Lab project at the Carl H. Russell, Sr. Recreation Center in Winston-Salem. Ultimately, WinstonNet grew to operate 30 computer labs in city recreation centers, churches, nonprofit organizations and the YMCA and YWCA.
Winston-Salem State University in partnership with WinstonNet held conferences at which grid-related computing technology is discussed. An innovative demonstration of supercomputing occurred in November 2003, when WinstonNet participated with the Alban Elved Dance Company to demonstrate real-time supercomputing in support of the arts.
WinstonNet's GigaPoP was upgraded to 1GB in 2005 which, at that time, was huge accomplishment.
WinstonNet was awarded a Business Education Technology Alliance (BETA) funding to support a state-wide effort to connect K-16 public schools to the NC Research and Education Network (NCREN)
WinstonNet was recognized as one of the Top 7 Intelligent Communities in 2008 by the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF), an international think tank.
WinstonNet continues to be recognized as a community collaborator with local, state and national organizations in support of bridging the digital divide by providing technology skills training, home computer purchase programs, community technical support and advocating for affordable home broadband in under-served neighborhoods.
WinstonNet has provided vision and leadership in the community on issues related to technology thanks to the many organizations involved. It continues to focus on providing modern and equal access to technology resources to all citizens of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.