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Local Tech Wire

RALEIGH, N.C. — Engineering and design work for 500 miles of new "middle-mile" broadband network in 37 rural counties will be done by ONUG Communications Inc. of Raleigh, MCNC announced Friday.

The work will support the $28.2 million federal recovery grant that MCNC got in January, ONUG and the company said. The money is coming from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program (BTOP).

The BTOP program is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, or stimulus funding. The network ONUG designs will be for counties in southeastern and western North Carolina.

This new broadband infrastructure will help expand the optical footprint of the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN), which provides Internet and Intranet services to nearly all of North Carolina’s three million K-20 students. In addition, through MCNC’s private-sector partner FRC/PalmettoNet, “last mile” carriers will have access to added options to procure wholesale broadband services in these rural areas.

"Middle mile" broadband refers to lines that carry data between nodes in the broadband infrastructure, such as servers, It does not include service to end-users.

“MCNC has an important role in driving and implementing high-speed broadband connectivity that meets the needs of all citizens in North Carolina,” said Tommy Jacobson, NCREN’s director of engineering and chief architect. “MCNC received several proposals that met or exceeded the required guidelines, but ONUG Communications’ application coupled with a successful history of completing a variety of telecommunications and utility projects already in North Carolina really matched well for the requirements needed for this intense effort.”

ONUG Communications will provide detailed engineering services, material specifications, environmental assessments, permitting, and project planning for the new fiber-optic network.

“As a North Carolina based company, we fully realize the important role broadband plays in expanding our state’s economy,” added Danny Huffman, ONUG president.

MCNC said it would soon release requests for proposals for a variety of other work.

MCNC is seeking an additional $78 million in federal funds through BTOP Round 2 in a project called the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative. If funded, this proposal will bring broadband infrastructure to even more rural areas.

If the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative receives funding, MCNC will be able to build a $111 million broadband fiber network that will include 1,448 miles of new fiber through 69 counties North Carolina. Sixty-seven of the 69 counties currently are classified as underserved or partially underserved for broadband connections.

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 United States, increase jobs, spur investments in technology and infrastructure, and provide long-term economic benefits.