MCNC begins second phase rollout of Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative in North Carolina

Round 2 of construction for the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative (GLRBI) in North Carolina began today with a virtual groundbreaking ceremony held in four locations. MCNC, the private, not-for-profit operator of the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN) that oversees the projected, hosted the ceremonies the marked the latest phase of the broadband stimulus project.

Round 2 of construction for the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative (GLRBI) in North Carolina began today with a virtual groundbreaking ceremony held in four locations. MCNC, the private, not-for-profit operator of the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN) that oversees the projected, hosted the ceremonies the marked the latest phase of the broadband stimulus project.

The GLRBI aims to improve the reach and capacity of the NCREN in northeastern, north central, western and south central North Carolina. The project received two rounds of funding from U.S. Department of Commerce's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), matched with funds from private donations and investments.

MCNC received federal approval to begin GLRBI phase 2 construction in late June. The Round 2 project is 3X the size of MCNC's BTOP Round 1 project. Round 2 includes 1,200 miles of broadband infrastructure through 79 counties in North Carolina. Sixty-nine of these counties include areas that meet the federal definition of "underserved" for access to affordable broadband services.

The total second phase project cost of $104 million was funded by two sources. The first was a federal BTOP grant of $75.75 million awarded in August 2010 through the NTIA. The BTOP investment was matched by $28.25 million in private donations, including a $24 million investment from the Golden LEAF Foundation.

MCNC has awarded contracts for the Round 2 project to CommScope for fiber-optic cable and materials; Edwards Telecommunications, Fiber Technologies, and Globe Communications for construction and fiber installation; and Kimley-Horn & Associates for engineering design, project planning, and related services.

All construction is to be complete by 2013.

The high-definition virtual groundbreaking simulcast was hosted at Asheville-Buncombe Tech Community College, Elizabeth City State University, the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, and UNC Pembroke. The event leveraged the existing video capabilities of NCREN. Among the benefits of the GLRBI will be an improvement of such video capabilities and capacity for HD video use among NCREN users.

"MCNC is excited to begin the second phase of building North Carolina's highway to the future," said Joe Freddoso, president and CEO of MCNC. "Today, we can link several sites via HD video for a one-time event. The GLRBI expansion, when complete, will allow us to host hundreds of these sessions simultaneously across the state. It will impact all facilities and institutions connected to NCREN. It will broaden the way teachers teach, students learn, doctors provide care, and for citizens at a local library searching to find a job."

The total investment for both Round 1 and Round 2 of the broadband infrastructure build is $144 million and includes an investment of $8 million in funds from the MCNC endowment that was used as matching funds for the Round 1 project. MCNC estimates the expansion of NCREN will create or save 2,500 engineering, construction, and manufacturing jobs in the state.


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