The 12 Days of Broadband are back.

MCNC, the private, not-for-profit operator of the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN), will launch the second annual 12 Days of Broadband on Thursday with a series of stories throughout December.

Beginning Dec. 6 through Dec. 21, the 12 Days of Broadband will showcase 12 unique innovations, applications or locations benefiting from high-speed, low-latency access on NCREN as well as preview what’s to come in 2013.

For more than a quarter century, NCREN has provided advanced Intranet and Internet connectivity to a constantly expanding number of community anchor institutions throughout North Carolina. Today‘s users of NCREN include 17 institutions of the University of North Carolina System, all 58 North Carolina Community Colleges, all 115 K-12 public school districts as well as a growing number of K-12 charter and private schools, the majority of the state’s private colleges and universities, 24 non-profit hospitals, 61 public health offices and clinics, and a number of the state’s premier research institutions. NCREN also serves as the Internet gateway network for all state employees.

MCNC currently is working on a $144 million expansion of NCREN scheduled to be completed in spring 2013. This initiative labeled the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative (GLRBI) was made possible through two federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) awards and additional funding from the MCNC Endowment and others such as the Golden LEAF Foundation and private wholesale telecommunications provider FRC. No direct funding from the State of North Carolina was required.

The first phase of the GLRBI was completed in 2012 and will certainly make the 12 Days of Broadband list. Other topics where broadband has made an impact this year in North Carolina will cover health care and telehealth capabilities, education, public libraries, job creation, economic development, innovation, energy, and more.

“Diverse, plentiful and sustainable broadband infrastructure is as necessary a foundation for equity of access to education, better health care, economic acceleration and job growth as the interstate highway system was in the 1950s,” said MCNC President and CEO Joe Freddoso. “NCREN, through the GLRBI project, has provided North Carolina an infrastructure that will scale to needs of the digital world for the next decade and beyond and the 12 Days of Broadband takes a look at the direct impacts broadband connectivity has made in state this year.”

It’s been an exciting year for connectivity in North Carolina. What has happened in North Carolina in 2012 and in just the previous three years when it comes to broadband connectivity is quite compelling.

As 2012 comes to a close, one can only imagine what’s to come in 2013.

Those on Twitter also can follow the 12 Days of Broadband using #12days or follow at @MCNC or @WRALTechWire.