The North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN), a regional fiber network, is expanding, according to MCNC, the non-profit that operates it.

The network operates in southeastern North Carolina. The expansion will connect communities between Sanford and Farmville in Greene, Harnett, Johnston and Wayne counties.

The Golden LEAF Foundation is contributing $1,327,130 to the project, which has an estimated total cost of $2.5 million. The expansion will leverage 138 miles of newly built fiber and construct 18.5 additional miles.

Construction on the project began last month and will be completed early next year. The emphasis will be on agriculture and rural areas. MCNC will work with North Carolina State University to connect cooperative extension offices on the route and the Cherry Research Farm in Goldsboro.

The Cherry Research Farm houses the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS), which focuses on sustainable agriculture technologies. It is a joint effort between the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and North Carolina State University.

MCNC also will enable residential connectivity via partnerships with wired and wireless ISPs. Finally, it will connect anchor institutions in education and healthcare. About 20 such locations will be connected to NCREN, including Johnston and Wayne Community Colleges, and Greene, Harnett, Johnston, and Wayne County schools.

“MCNC remains focused on delivering the highest-quality connectivity services available to the public sector of North Carolina,” said MCNC President and CEO Jean Davis in a press release. “North Carolina is a state of Internet haves and have nots. Once again, with the support of the Golden LEAF Foundation, we are able to reach our important agricultural-based communities and other rural areas of the state that need us the most and close the gap.”

In February 2018, MCNC said that 22 Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs) have direct connections to the network. The connections are to Randolph Community College; Allen Public Library (formerly Biscoe Public Library); Asheboro City Schools; Asheboro/Randolph County Public Library; Currie Memorial Library; Daymark Recovery Services – Randolph Center; Daymark Recovery Services – Richmond Center; Greensboro Central Public Library; Guilford County Schools; High Point Regional Physicians Network – Asheboro Cardiology; High Point Regional Physicians Network – Asheboro Neurology; Kemp Sugg Memorial Library; NC State Highway Patrol Troop D District; Randleman Public Library; Randolph Community College; Randolph County Schools; Randolph Hospital, Inc.; Richmond County Health Department; Seagrove Public Library; Star Public Library; Thomas H. Leath Memorial Library; Triad Math and Science Academy; and Uwharrie Charter Academy.

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