EdTech Hero: Phil Emer, connecting North Carolina schools to unlimited broadband


Phil Emer has been leading North Carolina’s School Connectivity Initiative since he moved from the private to the public sector more than 10 years ago.

Emer had been an engineer with IBM and then a technology executive for a venture-backed broadband service provider in North Carolina before he committed to “working in support of public education.”

To mark the switch, he joined the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, which operates out of North Carolina State University, and tapped into his industry expertise, experiences and relationships to propel the research center forward.

His priority since 2006 has been connecting every student in North Carolina to “consistent, reliable, sustainable, high-performance” broadband, he told EdScoop.

Emer, director of technology planning and policy for the Friday Institute, is on track to achieve that goal by June 2018, said Myra Best, executive director at the nonprofit DigiLEARN and friend of Emer. At that time, all 1.5 million public school students in North Carolina’s more than 2,500 schools will be Wi-Fi-connected, making North Carolina the first and only state to offer unlimited broadband to all students.

This project expanded on an earlier effort, led by Emer and Best, to connect all North Carolina schools to a single network.

“The goal was to provide equal access and opportunity to education for all children, no matter where they live in N.C.,” Best told EdScoop. “It was foundational to the work that Phil has continued to implement and champion with the ultimate goal to put technology into hands of every student.”

Read more from EdScoop’s series “EdTech Heroes: 25 State Leaders Making a Difference.”