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Local Tech Wire

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – , the builder and maintainer of the statewide North Carolina Research and Education Network, is seeking $28.1 million in federal funding to broaden high-speed Internet access across the state.

Working with private sector partner FRC/PalmettoNet, a provider of fiber network services in the Carolinas, MCNC is seeking the money to add some 600 miles of fiber optic cable to enable high-speed net access in many of the states that have limited or no access to broadband.

MCNC has pledged $4 million from its endowment as well as $3 million in equipment it has already purchased for network expansion toward the effort. FRC/PalmettoNet also has said it will invest $4 million.

The federal grant guidelines call for a 20 percent match of any funding.

The total cost of the fiber project is $40 million and would include a second fiber conduit for future expansion, according to MCNC Chief Executive Officer Joe Freddoso.

MCNC already works with several state institutions, universities and colleges to provide high-speed access for schools and other public sector entities.

With the support of FRC/PalmettoNet and other private service providers who want to access an expanded network, MCNC believes a bigger NCREN footprint will also boost the private sector. Freddoso pointed out that the network will not carry private sector traffic but portions of the new fiber can be designated for private use.

“MCNC has always focused on its core mission of serving its education clients with robust backbone services and Internet Access,” Freddoso told Local Tech Wire and WRAL.com. “If in the course of that mission, we could figure out a way to help the private sector, eNC and the governor reach consumers and small businesses in underserved areas of the state, MCNC was going to pursue that opportunity. The availability of recovery funding is just such an opportunity.”

eNC is the state-supported group tasked with spreading broadband across North Carolina.

N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue announced the MCNC application on Thursday. MCNC worked with the N.C. Office of Economic Recovery & Investment to submit the application on Aug. 17.

MCNC receives no state funding directly but charges fees to customers such as the UNC university system for use of NCREN. It also provides connectivity to K-12 school districts, community colleges and several private colleges and universities.

Grants are available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

In order to prepare the application and provide data about how NCREN would be expanded, MCNC invested $250,000 in staff and outside services, Freddoso said.