North Carolina’s Microelectronics Center of North Carolina (MCNC) has applied for $28.1 million in Broadband Technology Opportunities stimulus/recovery funding to extend and expand the North Carolina Research and Education Network, a state-wide private fiber education and research network that links state primary, secondary schools, universities and research institutions throughout the state, Gov. Bev Perdue announced Sept. 3. North Carolina is bucking the trend of other statewide stimulus applications, most of which have been north of $100 million.
“NCREN is of great importance to public education in North Carolina, serving more than 2 million students across the state with vital broadband access,” Perdue said in a news release. “This proposal allowed North Carolina to leverage the existing NCREN to create more robust access for our schools, libraries and public health facilities, while also reaching our under-served citizens.”
If the application is approved, MCNC intends to use the funds to build a middle-mile NCREN extension that stretches more than 600 miles that would provide broadband access to under-served communities.
The network could potentially reach more than 300,000 under-served families, 180,000 businesses and more than 1,500 “anchor” institutions. The non-profit organization would form partnerships with commercial telecoms and cable providers to bridge the last mile to individuals, academic and health care institutions, community service organizations and businesses. Building out the NCREN would also create more than 230 engineering and construction jobs, according to the MCNC.
MCNC was able to raise the 20% in matching funds necessary to qualify for BTOP grants through private sources. The federal broadband stimulus/recovery program is being managed by the Dept. of Commerce’s NTIA and the Dept. of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service.