Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of Local Tech Wire and business editor of WRAL.com.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Backers of the proposal to greatly expand are still holding their breath, still hoping they will receive $78 million in federal funds for the project.

The Obama Administration is announcing another round of grants today for 66 projects nationwide. Two are in North Carolina and two are in Georgia.

However, the NCREN project isn’t on the list.

The good news is that while the latest round includes $795 million in grants and loans that’s only a portion of the $7.2 billion committed to the entire U.S. broadband project. Even with today’s awards, just $2.7 billion of the total has been committed.

"We congratulate the worthy projects that were awarded funds today," MCNC Chief Executive Officer Joe Freddoso told Local Tech Wire and WRAL.com. "The NTIA continues to award BTOP funds to projects that bring comprehensive Internet infrastructure and Public Computing Center access to under-served populations.

"Significant funds remain for future BTOP Round 2 announcements," he added. "We hope that the NTIA finds the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative worthy of a BTOP investment."

(BTW, BTOP stands for Broadband technology Opportunity Program.)

MCNC, backed by a $24 million pledge from the Golden LEAF economic development group, this spring to build upon the $28.7 million the federal government awarded the state in January for the first stage of NCREN expansion. MCNC is moving to launch that project, which will expand its fiber network across 37 of the state’s 100 counties with 494 miles of fiber cable.

The second proposal is the big one, however. If awarded the money, MCNC will be able to build a fiber ring that encompasses virtually the entire state.

The two N.C. projects being funded today are in the mountains:

• Skyline Telephone Membership Corporation receives $29 million for a fiber-to-the-home project in Allegheny and Ashe Counties.

• French Broad Electric Membership Corporation receives $1.8 million

"MCNC is particularly proud that French Broad and Skyline Telephone were awarded BTOP funds that will be either wholly or partially spent in their service regions in N.C.," Freddoso said. "Both entities are innovative, customer centric Internet technology service providers."

In Georgia, the recipients are:

• Wilkes Telephone and Electric Company, $48.1 million for a fiber-to-the-home project in Lincoln, Taliaferro and Wilkes Counties

• Darien Telephone Company, $448,000 for a project on Sapelo Island

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