MCNC selects partners for $20M fiber network in North Carolina

MCNC announced today that three companies have been selected to share an estimated $20 million to expand the fiber-optic network of the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN) in southeastern and western North Carolina. A fourth company was chosen for an additional $1.8 million contract for the optical design portion of the project. This project is expected to create jobs in these regions and bring critical broadband infrastructure to 37 counties.

MCNC sought proposals from qualified contractors in August 2010 to construct a new fiber-cable network to connect community anchor institutions (universities, community colleges, schools, libraries, county offices and more) to a statewide fiber-optic network. For segments in the west, a contract was awarded to Fiber Technologies, Inc., a Quanta Services company (NYSE: PWR). Under the agreement, Fiber Technologies will install approximately 200 miles of fiber in the west that includes segments from Hickory to Lenoir, Asheville to Old Fort, Enka to Sylva, and Hendersonville to Huntersville. Globe Communications was chosen for segments in the east that includes about 220 miles starting in Rocky Mount and running through Greenville, New Bern, Morehead City, and Jacksonville before ending in Wilmington. Comtech was selected for all fiber splicing related to this portion of the project, and Cisco Systems has been chosen for the optical design portion of the project.

This project is funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). MCNC was awarded $28.2 million through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program (BTOP) in January to fund the engineering and construction of approximately 500 miles of new fiber to expand the optical footprint of NCREN in southeastern and western North Carolina. 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 broadband infrastructure. No state tax dollars were used to fund this project.

The U.S. Department of Commerce also awarded $75.75 million in August in a second round of funding to support the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative (GLRBI). The Golden LEAF Foundation Board of Directors awarded $24 million in matching funds for the Round 2 grant. An additional $5.25 million in match was raised from the MCNC endowment, donations of land from individual community colleges and universities, and a donation of already-installed conduit in northeastern North Carolina from the Albemarle Pamlico Economic Development Corporation. This award builds on MCNC’s Round 1 BTOP award to where North Carolina now will benefit from more than $140 million to expand high-speed connectivity in rural unserved and underserved portions of the state. Requests for Proposals and other announcements associated with GLRBI are forthcoming.

Both of MCNC’s awards are a part of a coordinated strategy developed by the Office of the Governor, the N.C. Office of Economic Recovery & Investment and eNC, the state’s rural broadband authority, to improve broadband access for businesses and residents in underserved areas. Once all work is complete, NCREN has the potential to serve more than 1,500 anchor institutions, 180,000 businesses, and reach more than 300,000 underserved families.

To learn more on the impacts this will have in North Carolina, watch the video: