Thursday, August 11, 2011

MCNC's Golden Leaf Project Enters Phase 2

MCNC, the private, not-for-profit operator of the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN), has begun construction on Round 2 of the of the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative (GLRBI).

The Golden LEAF project is deploying fiber connections connecting universities, community colleges, schools, health and safety facilities, libraries, county offices, and other community anchor institutions to a statewide fiber optic network.

The Round 2 project is three-times the size of MCNC's BTOP Round 1 project. Those areas of construction for Round 2 include 1,200 miles of broadband infrastructure through 79 counties in North Carolina. Sixty-nine of these counties include significant 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 the $24 million investment from the Golden LEAF Foundation.

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. The GLRBI will greatly expand the reach and capacity of NCREN in northeastern, north central, western and south central North Carolina.

"Thanks to the Recovery Act, this project is creating jobs and will support continued innovation and expanded economic and educational opportunities in North Carolina," said Lawrence E. Strickling, Administrator of the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

MCNC received federal approval to begin GLRBI phase 2 construction in late June. Since that time, MCNC has mobilized efforts and worked to finalize all necessary permits and materials to begin construction.

"MCNC is excited to begin the second phase of building North Carolina's highway to the future. We want to thank our state and federal leaders for their continued support for the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative," 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."

To date, MCNC has awarded contracts for Round 2 to the following firms: 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.

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