Day 4: New map shows 20 years of network growth for North Carolina

Day 4 12 Days
  • facebook share link
  • twitter share link
  • linkedin share link
  • mail share link

For more than 40 years, MCNC has proactively met the technology needs of North Carolina communities – whether rural or urban, mountain or coastal, big or small. The organization has been a leader in innovation since inception and a catalyst for technology-based economic development.

One of these innovations is a world-class fiber network, the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN), which serves as the foundation for digital transformation across the state.

This map updated in August shows just how far the network has come in just the past 20 years.


Download PDF Version of the Map

MCNC now delivers high-speed broadband in all 100 counties in North Carolina and operationalizes best-in-class cybersecurity protections, experienced engineers and developers, fair pricing, and local client services to support and enhance economic development, collaboration and innovation. MCNC has extensive technical expertise and deep roots in local communities. As a trusted partner, MCNC’s middle-mile backbone connects the people of North Carolina. It is part of a technology solution that ensures the continued socio-economic success of local communities throughout the state.

Remember the Beginning

The basic concept of sending/receiving information from one place to another is a foundational part of society. Since NCREN came online the world shrunk, real-time collaboration moved from telephones, to fax machines, to email, to online video and social media – really think about how much has actually happened in technology today in just a short amount of time. 

The best method for students at Duke and UNC Chapel Hill to share classes and information in 1983 was a ride down Tobacco Road on the Trailways Bus. The N.C. General Assembly initially funded MCNC in 1980 to be a catalyst for technology-based economic development for North Carolina. By 1985, MCNC began operating an advanced communications network called CONCERT (subsequently called NCREN), and the initial microwave system linking NC State University, Duke, UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Charlotte, North Carolina A&T, RTI International, and MCNC was complete. This was the first broadcast-quality, two-way interactive, multipoint video and audio system in the United States.

20 Years of NCREN expansionThe first connection required hauling up large microwave dishes on top of the tallest buildings at both Duke and UNC and pointing them at each other for video and then breaking out telephone lines to plug directly into microphones for audio. In this photo taken in fall 1983, Alan Blatecky (left) and several installers roped up the original microwave dish on top of the Brinkhous-Bullitt Building at UNC Chapel Hill. The dish was aimed at Duke University, a distance of 8 or 9 miles, and began live two-way audio, two-way video, fully-interactive transmissions by end of the year. This was a huge step forward in creating a new term deemed “distance education.” 

Today, those words have a whole new meaning as we continue to celebrate these early innovators for paving the way then to creating equitable education opportunities for all North Carolinians now. Look at the date of the article below – that’s almost exactly 40 years ago!

20 Years of NCREN Expansion

Notable Expansion Projects

In the late 1990s, MCNC completed broadband connections to each of the 18 core members of the network, combining video and data, using a combination of digital microwave technology and broadband ATM technology. By 2008, MCNC was selected to lead the N.C. School Connectivity Initiative to provide connections to all 115 K-12 school districts. As MCNC’s work progressed, you can see below how the network started to take shape as the demand for bandwidth skyrocketed…

  • 2011-2013: BTOP (Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative). Link.

  • 2016-2017: Hamlet Greensboro Expansion project. Link.

  • 2018-2019: RTP Expansion Project w/ Duke. Link.

  • 2019-2020: Sanford to Farmville expansion project. Link.

  • 2020-2021: Western Expansion Project. Link.

  • 2022-2024: Winston-Salem to Dobson. Project Map.

  • 2023-2025: HERO Project. Link.

Map the Evolution

North Carolina continues to be the cradle of many of today’s hottest networking technologies. Below shows the evolution of the network to where it is today as well as a future outlook by 2025.

MCNC Expansion Images

View the Year-By-Year Network Maps

MCNC also is happy to share this Interactive Community Map for a high-level overview of community anchor institutions that MCNC serves. To view organizations that are clients of MCNC, simply click on one or more counties in the map, or select a constituent group, or select a county in the list provided.

By the numbers

  • NCREN is now over 4,400 miles in every county in North Carolina
  • MCNC operates two data centers in Research Triangle Park and at PARI
  • MCNC is compliant with SOC 2 standards
  • MCNC has two 10 Gbps connections to the web, one 100 Gbps to Internet2
  • MCNC operates a Network Operations Center 24x7x365
  • MCNC supports broadband connectivity for all 115 K-12 public school districts in North Carolina
  • MCNC supports all 58 campuses of the North Carolina Community College System
  • MCNC supports more than 100 charter schools and a growing number of K-12 private schools
  • MCNC supports more than 50 universities and colleges in the state. 

Exceptional Uptime, Strong NPS and 100% Customer Satisfaction

MCNC maintains an exceptional record of 99.99% uptime on all core facilities, which underscores a commitment to delivering reliable and uninterrupted connectivity services. Additionally, MCNC’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 81 for 2023 reflects strong advocacy and customer loyalty, demonstrating that clients not only value our offerings but also feel compelled to refer our products and services to others. And, finally, MCNC has a 100% Customer Satisfaction Rating. This score is a testament to our promise in delivering exceptional products and services that meet and exceed the expectations of our valued clients across all touchpoints. We are grateful for the trust and loyalty our customers have shown the last 40 years, and we remain dedicated to continually enhancing their experience.

What’s Next?

MCNC has spent a generation connecting North Carolina for future generations. 

For over four decades, MCNC has helped create a productive e-citizenry in North Carolina – working to give all citizens access to modern technologies that support and improve quality of life, supporting education, health care, and government services be more accessible, resourceful and transparent, and helping give all North Carolinians the opportunities to think great thoughts and do great things.

Supporting the entire broadband ecosystem in North Carolina is what we do. As we begin our 43rd year of service, MCNC will continue to drive the evolution of our industry in our state as we have always done. MCNC has always been known for “Connecting North Carolina’s Future Today.”  Now, MCNC is about “Connecting North Carolina to What’s Next!”

Return to the 13th annual 12 Days of Broadband >>>

Related Content

12 Days day 12

Day 12: Looking back, looking forward with MCNC Senior Leadership

12 Days of Broadband Day 11

Day 11: MCNC’s innovation playbook brings Next IT to NC

12 Days of Broadband Day 10

Day 10: North Carolina’s high-speed foundation for K-12 education

12 Days of Broadband Day 9

Day 9: NCTNA and MCNC connecting for better health in North Carolina

PO Box 12889
3021 East Cornwallis Road
RTP, NC 27709-2889
919-248-1900 Phone | 919-248-1101 Fax
Connect With Us
  • linkedin
  • instagram
  • x
  • facebook
  • youtube
© 2024 MCNC

Get more MCNC News