MCNC Awarded $28.2 Million in Broadband Recovery Funds

North Carolina non-profit will use no state funding to increase broadband infrastructure throughout the state with an estimate of creating more than 230 jobs by building 480-mile fiber-optic network

Jan 20, 2010, 14:38 ET from MCNC

RALEIGH, N.C., Jan. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- The United States Department of Commerce announced today that MCNC, an independent non-profit organization that employs advanced networking technologies and systems to continuously improve learning and collaboration throughout North Carolina's K-20 education community, has been awarded $28.2 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Broadband Recovery Funds. North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue and members of the North Carolina Congressional Delegation joined U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke for the announcement.

MCNC operates the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN), one of the nation's first statewide education and research networks. NCREN provides broadband communications technology services and support to K-12 school districts, higher education campuses, academic research institutions, and public health facilities across the state.

MCNC raised $11.7 million in matching funds for its successful application through private sources, including $4 million from the MCNC endowment, making the total project a $40 million investment in North Carolina's broadband infrastructure.

“Increased broadband access for underserved areas is a critical infrastructure improvement that will help businesses of all sizes create jobs,” said Gov. Perdue.  “NCREN will also play a vital role as part of my Career and College – Ready, Set, Go! Initiative, which will help ensure those businesses have access to a well-trained workforce.”

This funding will allow North Carolina to leverage the existing NCREN to create more robust access for our schools, libraries and public health facilities, while also reaching our underserved citizens.

The MCNC award is a key part of a coordinated strategy developed by the N.C. Office of Economic Recovery & Investment to improve broadband access for businesses and residents in underserved areas and enhance feasibility of Health Information Exchange initiatives across the state, resulting in improved access to health services.

The ARRA appropriated $7.2 billion and directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) to expand broadband access to unserved/underserved communities across the U.S., increase jobs, spur investments in technology and infrastructure, and provide long-term economic benefits. The result is the RUS Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) and the NTIA Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP).

"We are pleased to learn of the BTOP award to MCNC," said Mike Murphy, chairman of the MCNC Board of Directors.  "The 480 miles of new fiber throughout the western and southeastern part of North Carolina will ensure that our K-12 schools, universities, community colleges, university hospitals, and other community anchor institutions (libraries, public health) will have access to unlimited amounts of bandwidth now and into the future.  All North Carolinians will benefit from the public/private partnership that created this application."

MCNC will begin immediately to undertake the work of planning and building the new middle-mile fiber. Construction is expected to last up to three years.  The new fiber build will be an essential element in North Carolina's plans to reach citizens and community anchor institutions that currently have limited broadband access.

Within the next 60 days, MCNC will issue several requests for proposal (RFP) for the design, construction and operation of the network.  These RFPs have the potential to create more than 230 engineering/construction jobs.

The new fiber build will traverse 37 counties in southeastern and western North Carolina.

Consumers and small businesses along the fiber build will be reached with enhanced broadband service through commercial telecommunications and cable providers with whom MCNC has formed partnerships.  FRC/PalmettoNet, a middle-mile operator and partner in MCNC's application will assist last-mile service providers in reaching consumers and commercial businesses. The network has the potential to serve more than 1,500 anchor institutions, 180,000 businesses, and more than 300,000 underserved families.

"FRC is pleased to be one of MCNC's key private partners in this project and can think of no better organization than MCNC to lead the expansion of North Carolina's middle-mile broadband infrastructure," according to John Dudley, FRC's Senior Director of Public Policy and External Affairs. "We are extremely pleased that the NTIA has recognized the intended benefits of this project and we look forward to building a network which will extend the depth and breadth of broadband within the state of North Carolina."

This is North Carolina's second broadband recovery related award.  In October, North Carolina's broadband authority eNC received a $2.3 million broadband mapping grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce. In addition, the MCNC application has been coordinated closely with other applications for federal economic recovery funds in North Carolina, including those in the areas of health care and education.