MCNC, the non-profit operator of the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN), today announced the completion of the second and final phase of the $144 million Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative (GLRBI).
The GLRBI is funded through grants from U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and significant matching funds from private donations and investments including a $24 million investment from the Golden LEAF Foundation and $10 million from the MCNC Endowment. No state funds were utilized as matching funds for the MCNC awards. Due to added investments from MCNC, more than 100 percent of the project grant value was expended with private-sector companies doing engineering, outside plant equipment, optical gear, and construction, all of which are based in North Carolina or have a significant presence in the state.
Today’s celebration event was held simultaneously from four locations in North Carolina (the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, UNC Charlotte, Elizabeth City State University, and the MCNC campus in Research Triangle Park), showcasing the expanded capabilities NCREN.
This historic project is having a positive impact on student learning, patient outcomes in health care, and is accelerating innovation and research all across the state. Community institutions now being served in the state include K-12 schools, universities, community colleges, health care facilities, public health facilities, libraries, research institutions, and other sectors. MCNC’s role in the GLRBI also involves leading discussions with economic developers and private-sector broadband service providers to use the GLRBI fiber to improve broadband access and grow jobs in North Carolina. MCNC has actively engaged more than a dozen entities in these discussions.
NCREN is now a fiber-based network that is more than 2,600 miles spanning the entire state. The first phase of the project was completed in April 2012 with 957 total operated miles (442 of which were new construction). The second phase completed today was much larger with total operated miles at 1,696 (1,300 of being new).
Vendors and contractors for Round 1 included: Fiber Technologies, Globe Communications, Comtech, Cisco Systems, CommScope, and ONUG Communications. Participating vendors and contractors for Round 2 included: BroadPlex, Cisco Systems, CommScope, ComTech, ECC Technologies, Edwards Telecommunications, Fiber Technologies, Globe Communications, Kimley-Horn & Associates, and World Fiber Technologies.
Due to the GLRBI, North Carolina is one of just a handful of states with an open access, middle-mile fiber network available to economic developers, businesses and broadband service providers. Several entities already are accessing GLRBI fiber to enhance broadband availability as an asset to attract job growth in their regions.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 appropriated $7.2 billion to broadband investments. The ARRA directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s NTIA to expand broadband access to unserved and underserved communities, increase jobs, spur investments in technology and infrastructure, and provide long-term economic benefits. The RUS was able to further fund the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) while the NTIA created the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP).