MCNC selects contractors for Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative, round 2

MCNC and its northwestern North Carolina project sub-recipient ERC Broadband (ERC) have selected three companies to construct 1,200 miles of new fiber optics as part of the second phase expansion of the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN).

MCNC and its northwestern North Carolina project sub-recipient ERC Broadband (ERC) have selected three companies to construct 1,200 miles of new fiber optics as part of the second phase expansion of the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN).

The vendors share a roughly $40 million construction award. The entire expansion of NCREN, called the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative (GLRBI), has an estimated project cost of approximately $146 million.

Three experienced fiber-optic construction firms--Globe Communications, Fiber Technologies, and Edwards Telecommunications--were selected for this phase of the project, the size and scope of which is nearly four-times larger than round 1. The project is scheduled to be completed by July 2013.

Edwards Telecommunications is a full-service telecommunications contractor based in Columbia; S.C.Fiber Technologies, a Quanta Services Company, is based in Loganville, Ga., with more than 35 years of telecommunications construction experience. Fiber Tech is working on roughly 200 miles of fiber installation in western North Carolina. Globe Communications is currently building segments totaling roughly 220 miles in southeastern North Carolina.

The total second phase project cost of $106 million was funded by two sources: a federal grant of $75.75 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration's Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program (BTOP), and $31.25 million in privately-raised funds, including$24 million from the Golden LEAF Foundation. The majority of the project funds will be spent with private-sector engineering, construction, materials, and technology companies who will assist with the build.

The GLRBI requires vendors to construct a new fiber cable network that connects universities, community colleges, schools, health and safety facilities, libraries, county offices, and other community anchor institutions to a statewide fiber-optic network. The construction encompasses seven routes in North Carolina. Each vendor will be assigned a specific segment to start. The overall amount of work eventually assigned to each vendor will be based on performance.

The following segments have been identified in North Carolina for round 2 construction and include these approximate route miles: North Central (203.9 miles); Outer Banks (243.3 miles); Northeast (282.8 miles); South Central (238.7 miles); Central (113.5 miles); Northwest (50 miles); and Graham (18 miles). The Graham portion will be awarded at a later date. All construction must be completed in accordance to federal guidelines and finished by Jan. 31, 2013 to allow MCNC time to equip and place the fiber optic into service on or before July 31, 2013.

This new network has the potential to serve more than 1,500 anchor institutions, 180,000 businesses, and more than 300,000 underserved families statewide.

In early March, MCNC announced that CommScope, Inc. of Hickory, N.C. was selected to provide all the necessary materials for the second phase of the project. They also were chosen for round 1. Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc. of Raleigh, N.C. was selected in October 2010 as the lead engineering firm for the round 2 project.

More in FTTX