Research Triangle Park, N.C. — MCNC today announced the first round of the $144 million Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative (GLRBI) is complete. All broadband fiber associated with this phase of the project is now active and serving Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs) including K-12 schools, universities, community colleges, health care facilities, public health facilities, libraries, research institutions, and other sectors of CAIs in western and southeastern North Carolina. Through first-phase commercial partner FRC LLC, which invested $4 million into the project, fiber is now available to serve commercial businesses and last-mile consumer broadband needs in these same regions.
The historic initiative is due in large part to the vision and tenacity of Nick Didow, UNC Kenan-Flagler professor and Kenan Institute Faculty Fellow. Didow saw the critical need to extend broadband access to rural homes and businesses and mobilized a statewide effort to provide it.
The GLRBI is funded through grants from U.S. Department of Commerce’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and significant matching funds from private donations and investments including a $24 million investment from the Golden LEAF Foundation. Once complete through two phases, the GLRBI will greatly expand the reach and capacity of the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN) in the state.
“This first phase of the project already is having a positive impact on student learning, patient outcomes in health care, economic outcomes in job creation and community development, and is accelerating innovation and research all across the state,” said MCNC President and CEO Joe Freddoso. “Our goal is to continue creating infrastructure that meets the advanced needs of research, education, and health care while stabilizing costs to consumers and small businesses in areas where affordable broadband currently isn’t available.”
Since the project began, all North Carolina Community Colleges have been connected to NCREN; the video services infrastructure on the network was upgraded; East Carolina University received a 10gig network upgrade and now serves as a hub for most of eastern North Carolina; the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville now has a 10gig connection, Vidant Medical Center in Pitt County became the first not-for-profit hospital connected to the N.C. Telehealth Network via NCREN, and finally, spending on engineering and construction attributed to the project has created and/or saved hundreds of jobs throughout the state.
To celebrate this achievement, MCNC will host its first online Twitter Town Hall today (Friday, April 27) at 11 a.m. EDT and will answer questions about the GLRBI and expansion of broadband connectivity in North Carolina live at www.mcnc.org/btop/townhall. This online-only event is an invitation from MCNC for anyone to participate in an open exchange about the project, its impacts, and future trends concerning networking and the rising need for bandwidth. Questions will be selected both in advance and in real-time during the event. To have your voice heard, tweet in questions using the hashtag #askMCNC. You can track the conversation three ways by watching the event live, follow live tweets from @MCNC or @GLRBI, or search out #askMCNC on Twitter.
MCNC received federal approval to begin the second phase of the GLRBI in June 2011. Since that time, MCNC has mobilized efforts and made significant progress on this portion of the project, which is three-times the size of the first phase.
The total of new miles spanning both projects is currently 2,604. The routes for Round 1 as engineered represent 904 newly-operational miles of which 414 miles are new construction. All Round 1 fiber is now lit and placed into service. The routes for Round 2 as engineered represent 1,700 total miles, of which 1,338 are new construction and 362 are being obtained and/or leased via indefeasible rights of use (IRU) or existing fiber is being upgraded. As of today, 595 miles of new conduit has been built along the Round 2 project route, 292 miles of fiber has been deployed within that conduit, and nearly 307 miles of dark fiber have been obtained via IRUs.
The participating vendors and contractors who worked on Round 1 include: Fiber Technologies for construction/installation of fiber in western North Carolina; Globe Communications for construction/installation of fiber in the southeast; Comtech for all the fiber splicing related to this portion of the project; Cisco Systems for providing the Cisco ONS 15454 Optical Design Network Solution; CommScope for supplying all fiber-optic cable and materials; and ONUG Communications for engineering design, project planning, and related services.
All vendors and contractors associated with Round 1 project are either North Carolina-based or have strong N.C. presence. To date, the overall project has been a $73 million infusion of spending with private engineering, materials manufacturing, and optical equipment manufacturers, construction companies in addition to acquiring fiber segments from telecommunications, cable companies, and electric membership cooperatives.
All construction for the GLRBI is to be complete by 2013.
About Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative
MCNC currently is working on a $144 million expansion of NCREN scheduled to be completed by 2013. This initiative has been labeled the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative (GLRBI).
To fund this expansion, MCNC applied for and received two U.S. Department of Commerce Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) awards totaling $104 million. In addition, MCNC raised $40 million in private matching funds as required by the BTOP program. MCNC’s sources of matching funds included $24 million from the Golden LEAF Foundation, $8 million from the MCNC Endowment, $4 million from private-sector wholesale telecommunications company FRC, and an estimated $4 million through donations of land and existing conduit from individual community colleges, universities, and others including the Albemarle Pamlico Economic Development Corporation. No direct funding from the State of North Carolina was required. MCNC estimates this project will create or save 2,500 engineering, construction, and manufacturing jobs in the state.
Both MCNC awards are a part of a coordinated strategy developed by the Office of North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue, the N.C. Office of Economic Recovery & Investment, and e-NC Authority to improve broadband access for businesses and residents in underserved areas. Once all work is complete, the two rounds of BTOP infrastructure have the potential to serve directly, or through MCNC partnerships with private-sector service providers, more than 1,500 community anchor institutions, 180,000 businesses, and reach more than 300,000 underserved families.
About The Golden LEAF Foundation
The Golden LEAF Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 1999 to help transform North Carolina’s economy. The foundation receives one-half of North Carolina’s funds from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with cigarette manufacturers and places special emphasis on assisting tobacco-dependent, economically distressed and/or rural communities across the state. The Golden LEAF Foundation works in partnership with governmental entities, educational institutions, economic development organizations and nonprofits to achieve its mission. The foundation has awarded 1,096 grants worth over $490 million since its inception. To learn more about applying for a grant, visit www.goldenleaf.org or call (888) 684.8404.