MCNC will hold the high-tech equivalent of a groundbreaking ceremony Friday when Gov. Bev Perdue is on hand for the announcement of contractors and a designer for first phase of expanding the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN).

The event will be held at the headquarters of CommScope, a maker of fiber-optic cable.

MCNC selected CommScope last month to provide materials for the NCREN Southeastern and Western North Carolina Fiber Expansion Project. The contract is worth an estimated $2.5 million.

Friday, MCNC will formally announce the three companies selected to share the initial phase of an estimated $20 million for construction related to the fiber-optic expansion of NCREN as well as the company chosen for the optical design portion of the project.

MCNC got $28.2 million in January for the first of two rounds of funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). It is to pay for engineering and construction of 480 miles of new fiber in 37 rural counties in southeastern and western North Carolina to expand NCREN’s optical footprint.

MCNC raised $11.7 million in private matching money to put the total project value at $39.9 million.

MCNC says the project will improve broadband service to 1,232 K-12 schools and 55 higher-education institutions. It also has the potential to serve 183 public libraries and 63 hospitals.