North Carolina fiber broadband group selects commercial marketing partner

MCNC, the private, not-for-profit operator of the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN), announced today that it has selected ECC Technologies of Wake Forest, N.C., and Penfield, N.Y., to oversee commercial broadband opportunities included in the second phase of the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative (GLRBI) awarded through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP).

MCNC issued an RFP last June 2011 seeking a private-sector service provider that will be responsible for marketing GLRBI fiber and other broadband services to private business enterprises, wholesale service providers, and to last-mile service providers who are seeking to expand service offerings to underserved consumers and businesses in the areas of the GLRBI build. The partner also will oversee routine and emergency maintenance of the GLRBI fiber.

MCNC raised $28.25 million in private matching funds and received $75.75 million in BTOP funds to build and acquire 1,700 miles of fiber as part of the second phase of the GLRBI.  The Golden LEAF Foundation granted $24 million of the matching funds for this phase of the expansion. Construction on the new build portion of the second phase of network expansion began in July and will conclude in spring 2013.

MCNC will use the new fiber to expand the capacity of NCREN, which serves as the backbone Intranet and Internet network for a significant number of Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs) in North Carolina. Those CAIs include all K-12 public schools, community colleges, University of North Carolina System institutions and select private colleges and universities, non-profit hospitals, public health, and public safety institutions in North Carolina.

In addition to serving rural and underserved CAIs through NCREN’s historic expansion, commercial businesses and consumers also can be served on all segments of the new GLRBI infrastructure. This includes segments in Northeast North Carolina (including the Outer Banks), North Central, Graham County, Charlotte to Wilmington, Charlotte to Kannapolis, and Hamlet to Raleigh. ECC will be responsible for working with public sector entities, private business enterprises, wholesale service providers, and last-mile service providers who are seeking to expand service offerings to reach these underserved consumers and businesses with affordable broadband service using the GLRBI fiber. ECC has a 16-year history of creating collaborative agreements that expand broadband services in rural areas.

ECC will begin its efforts on behalf of MCNC with extensive outreach to groups of leaders in areas of the GLRBI build. Groups of advocates, such as Northeast Rural Broadband Partnership, have already begun to formulate their strategies for leveraging the GLRBI fiber to expand broadband options for businesses and consumers in their respective regions. ECC will work with existing and emerging groups like the Northeast Rural Broadband Partnership to assist them in understanding the role the GLRBI fiber can play in their broadband expansion plans.

“Many rural regions in North Carolina have been left behind in the race to build out critical broadband infrastructure.  The GLRBI is the first step for these regions and their leaders to leverage an infrastructure that is now critical for prosperity, education, healthcare, and global competitiveness,” said Joe Starks, CEO and founder of ECC Technologies. “We are looking forward to working with leaders throughout North Carolina and helping discover how the GLRBI can be part of their plans to create a prosperous future.”

Noel Preston, chairman of the Northeast Rural Broadband, said that for years leaders in Northeast North Carolina have realized the critical nature of reaching underserved businesses and consumers with more affordable broadband service.

“We know that realizing that vision is only possible if the public sector and private sector work together,” said Preston. “The GLRBI has provided a catalytic step to energizing this vision. By working with ECC Technologies and MCNC, we hope to form the partnerships to help realize this vision.”