Local Tech Wire

DURHAM, N.C. – It’s been a big year for broadband in N.C.

Nearly 300 have registered for MCNC’s annual NCREN Community Day celebration scheduled on Thursday and Friday at the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics in Durham.

MCNC, the operator of the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN), annually hosts the event for NCREN users and constituents to gain updates on programs and initiatives, hear from leaders in the community, and share applications, best practices, successes and ideas experienced by peers through the use of NCREN and its related services.

The theme this year is “enhancing the learning experience.” The focus will be on broadband expansion and the impact and opportunities this year’s federal funding will present to all North Carolinians for years to come. .

MCNC was awarded a total of $146 million this year to expand high-speed connectivity in rural portions of North Carolina through NCREN.

MCNC was awarded $28.2 million through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program (BTOP) in January to expand the optical footprint of NCREN. An additional $75.75 million came in August in a second round of funding to support the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative (GLRBI). The Golden LEAF Foundation provided $24 million in matching funds for the Round 2 federal grant.

Once all work is complete, NCREN has the potential to serve more than 1,500 anchor institutions, And, through partnerships with private sector wholesale and last-mile service providers, 180,000 businesses and 300,000 underserved families.

There will be an interactive discussion and overview on the scope and impact of this year’s BTOP awards during Community Day.

In addition, the two-day event also will feature J. Erik Garr, partner at Diamond Management and Technology Consultants (co-author of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan) as well as high-energy panel discussions on Net Neutrality, Municipal Broadband Deployments, Collaborative Network Applications, Middleware and Shared Services.

Video stream will be live during the event: .

North Carolina, the nation’s 10th largest state, ranks 37th in household broadband penetration among the 50 states, according to a federal survey released this month by the NTIA. The results, which are based on data from a Census survey conducted in October, shows the state’s population has much more access than in 2001 when the rate was 7 percent. However, N.C. still ranks below the national average of 64 percent.

The NTIA also announced this week that it has identified 115 MHz of wireless spectrum currently controlled by the federal government can now be turned over or shared with commercial users for wireless broadband service. The spectrum could be re-allocated for commercial broadband within five years, part of an effort to identify 500 MHz of spectrum for wireless broadband pushed by President Barack Obama and the FCC.

So, the topic of conversation later this week at Community Day certainly will be on the latest developments in broadband infrastructure at the local, state, and federal levels, and how public/private partnerships will be the key to preventing a even deeper digital divide in North Carolina.

Look for updates and interviews with participants on LTW throughout the two days starting Thursday.

This year’s sponsors include Cisco Systems, FRC/PalmettoNet, Hewlett-Packard, Intel Corporation, CommScope, ONUG Communications, NetStar1, and Sonicfoundry.

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