Day 4: North Carolina needs HERO, expanding broadband a top priority in 2023
North Carolina is home to great thinkers and innovators as well as some of the most significant scientific and technological advancements made this century. The state also is home to rural farms, small mountain towns, coastal villages, and dozens of counties in between with schools, libraries, and small businesses that can’t compete because of the lack of broadband opportunities.
MCNC continues to be the organization whose bold technology solutions can bring equity to the digital landscape and bring these disparate populations together.
On May 16, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo visited North Carolina to formally announce the launch of the “Internet for All” initiative, a $45 billion nationwide investment into affordable high-speed Internet for everyone in America by 2030. MCNC supported the announcement and has since applied for funding through the Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program to extend the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN) via two fiber-optic paths.
The $11.2 million grant proposal named High-speed Economies for Rural Opportunity, or HERO, was submitted in September. Total project will be approximately $19 million with funding secured.
“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for North Carolina,” said Doaks, referring to the unprecedented funding opportunities made available in 2022. “MCNC’s mission is to strengthen North Carolina’s future by making secure, high-speed Internet and technology services more accessible to everyone. This is now our moment!”
For four decades MCNC has been a great steward of government funding, including the successful completion of the $144 million Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative through the NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) in 2012-13. That project expanded critical broadband infrastructure over 2,600 miles through 82 counties across the state. Now, MCNC’s network is nearly 4,500 miles while the organization continues to provide essential connectivity and technology services to community anchor institutions in all 100 counties of the state including K-20 education, non-profit health care, government and public safety organizations, and a host of state offices and partners.
The Golden LEAF Foundation once again is supporting MCNC’s efforts to expand broadband and awarded $1,382,782.18 in August to be used as matching funds towards the Eastern North Carolina portion of the HERO project. If federal funds are awarded next year, MCNC proposes to build 209 miles of broadband fiber on two strategic routes including Albemarle to Winston-Salem (74 miles) as well as between Sanford via Fayetteville to Jacksonville (135 miles) in Eastern North Carolina.
MCNC remains committed to digital equity through the development of a robust broadband connectivity in North Carolina. Certain regions in North Carolina are among the most technologically advanced in the nation. However, many others remain underserved and unserved, allowing opportunities to pass by. Read more about MCNC’s plans throughout this fiscal year.
More than 235 applications were submitted nationwide to the Internet for All middle-mile program. Funding announcements from the NTIA is expected to come out in early spring 2023.
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