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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. (Aug. 18, 2010) - The U.S. Department of Commerce announced today that MCNC, an independent non-profit organization that employs advanced networking technologies and systems to improve learning and collaboration throughout North Carolina's K-20 education community, has been awarded $75.75 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Broadband Recovery Funds through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) to support the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative (GLRBI).
This award builds on MCNC’s Round 1 BTOP award, a $39.9 million project (including $28.2 million in BTOP Funds) granted in January 2010 to build 480 miles of fiber in 37 counties in southeastern and western N.C.
The GLRBI will enhance the existing North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN), which MCNC has operated for the last quarter century, and will add to the existing ERC Broadband Network operated by the non-profit ERC Broadband in western North Carolina. Approximately 1,300 miles of new middle-mile fiber will be built throughout the state under this latest award. In addition, about 400 miles of existing fiber will be provided to the GLRBI through lease agreements and donations. The middle-mile is the sector of the network that connects last-mile facilities such as telecom company local interconnection points (central offices) with the commercial Internet and with national and global advanced research networks such as Internet2 and National Lambda Rail.
The Golden LEAF Foundation Board of Directors awarded $24 million in matching funds for the Round 2 grant. An additional $5.25 million in match was raised from the MCNC endowment, donations of land from individual community colleges and universities, and a donation of already-installed conduit in northeastern North Carolina from the Albemarle Pamlico Economic Development Corporation. UNC-Chapel Hill’s Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Entreprise and School of Government helped prepare the GLRBI application.
MCNC raised $11.7 million in matching funds for its successful Round 1 application through private sources, including $4 million from the MCNC endowment.
North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue congratulated MCNC and the Golden LEAF Foundation as well as commended U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and his team at the NTIA for making this second middle-mile investment in North Carolina through the BTOP program.
“This investment provides North Carolina with a robust broadband infrastructure that will help deliver access to education, through NCREN, that is not defined geographically but is equitable for every student at every level of education,” said Gov. Perdue. “This infrastructure also helps us scale to meet the health care needs of our most rural citizens, and levels the playing field in attracting high-paying jobs to rural North Carolina.”
The GLRBI expands the NCREN footprint to traverse a total of 69 counties in the rural Northeastern, North Central, Northwest and South Central parts of North Carolina. Sixty-seven of these counties are designated as rural, according to Federal Highway Administration standards, and are designated as fully or partially underserved with respect to the availability of broadband service.
MCNC’s application for ARRA recovery funds was tendered to the U.S. Department of Commerce's NTIA and BTOP on March 25, a day prior to the March 26 deadline. For Round 2, the program required a 20-percent funding match by applicants but gave priority review to applications raising 30 percent in matching funds. The design, construction, and operation of the network could create more than 1,000 engineering/construction jobs.
The new fiber-optic build will connect with the existing-owned NCREN fiber in North Carolina’s urban core as well as the new Round 1 BTOP fiber. The GLRBI will greatly increase the broadband capacity and stabilize bandwidth and Internet access costs for public school systems, community college campuses, libraries, universities, and other community anchor institutions that connect to NCREN.
In addition, many private-sector wholesalers and last-mile service providers have expressed interest to MCNC in leasing fiber on the GLRBI. More than a dozen letters of support and interest from private-sector service providers were included in the GLRBI application. As a result, every region of the newly-funded fiber build will likely have private-sector partners who will increase the broadband service options for citizens and businesses in these areas.
U.S. Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC): “This second grant of $75.75 million to MCNC - which is on top of $39.9 million awarded in January - is a serious investment in broadband infrastructure for North Carolina. North Carolinians in the areas where the fiber will be built will now have 21st-century broadband infrastructure, which will boost job growth in our state. When this fiber is built, students in rural schools, community colleges, and four-year colleges and universities will access a network that will meet their research and education needs well into the future. With this award, many more North Carolinians will have broadband access, and I will continue working in the senate to secure broadband funding for North Carolina.”
Dan Gerlach, President, Golden LEAF Foundation: “The areas of the state covered by the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative continue to transition their economies to compete globally. The Golden LEAF Foundation’s Board of Directors viewed the investment in the GLRBI as an opportunity to provide essential infrastructure, take advantage of federal matching dollars, and invest directly in efforts to grow stronger communities. ”
University of North Carolina President Erskine Bowles: “This BTOP award is truly a game changer for North Carolina. Since 1999, the Rural Prosperity Task Force and our state’s leaders have highlighted the importance of statewide access to broadband for our students and citizens. The funding of the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative is the most significant event toward meeting this goal since it was crafted over a decade ago. For the University system, an NCREN with a statewide fiber footprint will enable our institutions to accelerate the pace of innovation and research, educate greater numbers of students, and address the health care, education, and economic needs of North Carolina’s citizens in greater numbers. NCREN truly is a digital pathway through which our public university can reach all citizens of the state."
Michael A. Murphy, chairman, MCNC Board of Directors: “North Carolina has long supported affordable broadband networks to ensure a high quality of life and a globally-competitive future for its citizens, businesses, and communities. Securing second-round funding provides critical broadband infrastructure to areas of the state that without the BTOP program would likely never see this investment. We are pleased our application has been funded by the NTIA and are grateful that the Golden LEAF Foundation saw fit to invest into this project.”
Hunter Goosmann, General Manager, ERC Broadband: “ERC Broadband is proud to be part of the GLRBI. With the BTOP funding we will enhance and expand broadband services to key education, public safety, health care institutions in Western North Carolina. This is another significant step in bringing enhanced broadband services that will benefit the citizens of Western North Carolina.”
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 appropriated $7.2 billion and directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) to expand broadband access to unserved and underserved communities across the U.S., increase jobs, spur investments in technology and infrastructure, and provide long-term economic benefits. The result is the RUS Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) and the NTIA Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). BIP will make loans and grants for broadband infrastructure projects in rural areas. BTOP will provide grants to fund broadband infrastructure, public computer centers, and sustainable broadband adoption projects. Of that $7.2 billion, $4.7 billion has been allotted to the NTIA to award grants. The remaining $2.5 billion was allotted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make loans to companies building out broadband infrastructure in rural areas.
MCNC filed the GLRBI application on March 25; one day prior to the March 26 filing deadline.
MCNC’s Package Details
MCNC’s application was 400 pages of information that included an executive summary and letters of support from several government and private-sector leaders throughout North Carolina. Highlights of the package include:
This 69-county service area encompasses approximately:
Total Project Value:
Estimated Jobs Created:
Sixty-nine BTOP2 counties:
The Golden LEAF Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 1999 to help transform North Carolina’s economy. The foundation receives one-half of North Carolina’s funds from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with cigarette manufacturers and places special emphasis on assisting tobacco-dependent, economically distressed and/or rural communities across the state. The Golden LEAF Foundation works in partnership with governmental entities, educational institutions, economic development organizations and nonprofits to achieve its mission. The foundation has awarded 971 grants worth over $459 million since its inception. To learn more about applying for a grant, visit www.goldenleaf.org  or call (888) 684-8404.