MCNC will work with a New York-based not-for-profit firm to help drive commercial use of fiber capacity in the expanding North Carolina Research and Education Network.

In a deal disclosed Wednesday, MCNC said it selected ECC Technologies to be its partner in driving business to NCREN’s growing backbone.

ECC Technologies, which is based in New York and has an office in Wake Forest, works with groups around the country to build community support and use of broadband services.

Under the agreement with MCNC, ECC will be compensated for business it brings to the network.

Commercial and private traffic will not be carried on fiber that is maintained by MCNC, however, but on separate strands.

MCNC anticipates that ECC will help clients build business cases for extension of broadband services into communities and rural areas that do not have broadband or have limited choices.

The deal with ECC covers the second round of the expansion of NCREN that is being underwritten in large part by a grant from the federal government and support from the Golden LEAF economic development organization. The cost of the second phase, which covers 1,700 miles of fiber, is $104 million with $24 million coming from Golden LEAF.

“MCNC was looking for a fiber marketing partner who shared its goals of leveraging this fiber to expand broadband service options for businesses and consumers in rural North Carolina,” said MCNC Chief Executive Officer Joe Freddoso. “These are entities that MCNC will not serve directly but are opportunities for commercial service providers to serve.

“ECC has a proven track record of working with local and regional business and policy leaders to leverage fiber assets to help expand service in underserved areas,” he added.

Construction is underway and is expected to be completed by early 2013.

The first phase of construction is well underway with most of the new fiber in place, Freddoso said in a conference call on Tuesday. Freddoso also said that some groups and businesses had expressed interest in capitalizing on the fiber network.

The primary users of NCREN are the state’s universities as well as public and charter schools, community colleges, non-profit hospitals and public health and safety groups.

ECC is tasked to work with other broadband and telecommunications providers as well as private firms and others who want to link to the NCREN backbone.

“Many rural regions in North Carolina have been left behind in the race to build out critical broadband infrastructure,” said Joe Starks, CEO and founder of ECC Technologies. “The [Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative] is the first step for these regions and their leaders to leverage an infrastructure that is now critical for prosperity, education, healthcare, and global competitiveness.”

In the conference call, Stark said the company would see add several people to its Wake Forest operation.

The second phase of the project is three-times the size of the first, which covers 412 miles.

Total cost of the project is more than $140 million.

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