RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. … Nonprofit research center MCNC has signed a three-year contract for Internet access service with Colorado-based Level 3 Communications (Nasdaq: LVLT).

MCNC operates the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN), a high-speed digital network that provides video, audio, and data services to research and education institutions statewide, including the 16 campuses of the University of North Carolina as well as Duke and Wake Forest universities.

Established in 1985, NCREN will use up to one gigabit of (3)CrossRoads capacity to help researchers and others in the North Carolina academic and research community to collaborate effectively and efficiently online. A majority of the state’s academic and research institutions are expected to utilize Level 3’s Internet access service.

“We look forward to helping NCREN fulfill the Internet access needs of its member institutions,” Level 3 Chief Technology Officer Jack Waters said in a statement. “The opportunities for Level 3 to meet the unique and substantial bandwidth needs of the research and higher education communities are significant and continually growing.”

In addition to NCREN, Level 3 provides direct or indirect network services to a number of other research and academic institutions in the United States and Europe, including Harvard University, the Corporation for Education Network Initiative in California and the University of Washington.

Level 3 also is one of two authorized national providers of network services for members of The Quilt, a group that gathers about 20 leading research and education networking organizations across the United States to promote consistent, reliable, interoperable and efficient advanced networking services that extend to the broadest possible community.

MCNC: www.mcnc.org

N.C. Research and Education Network: www.ncren.net

Level 3 Communications: www.Level3.com