People connecting with people through technology can yield great collaborations.

As the first phase of the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative (GLRBI) neared completion in April and work got underway on the second phase the project, many communities throughout North Carolina started to see an immediate positive impact from the $144 million expansion of the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN).

As NCREN customers started to see many new services available because of the historic project, MCNC officially announced in February the availability of high-definition Movi videoconferencing software and other managed/shared services enabled by the GLRBI with the unveiling of a new NCREN Services Catalog.

Following a successful pilot of 500 Movi clients that began in July 2011, MCNC successfully incorporated new hardware, software, and integration services to support Cisco TelePresence and Movi interoperability last winter. MCNC also began providing managed soft-client video services including options available for both standard and high-definition up to 720p that incorporate many of the most popular brands of codecs including Polycom, Sony, and Tandberg.

The NCREN interactive video network handles more than 100 hours of classes, conferences and seminars each week. MCNC is able to offer live streaming of sessions with storage capability for future viewing. And, because these services are able to integrate with many commercially-available interactive video technologies, desktop videoconferencing can be incorporated into sessions with more traditional room-based systems when needed. This allows education institutions to gain maximum return on their already-placed video investments and upgrade capabilities as budgets allow.

The services now being offered, in particular the power of interactive video, have helped create a leading-edge learning environment in North Carolina as well as enable research collaboration, seminars, online workshops, and many other applications easily facilitated by video.

MCNC now also offers Technology Forums for customers to interact with each other and MCNC’s subject matter experts.

In addition to enhanced video services, MCNC offers a 5,000 square-foot data center with more now available through the data center portfolio. MCNC currently offers server collocation with custom installation options available as well as several managed hosting options in addition to centralized, automated data protection services. The facility has a Network Operations Center staffed 24×7 that sits on seven 10Gig connections to the Web, Internet2, and National Lambda Rail.

MCNC led North Carolina’s successful efforts to pursue federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) funds administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in 2010. MCNC raised $40 million in private funds (including $8 million from its own Endowment and $24 million from the Golden LEAF Foundation) to win two BTOP grants totaling $104 million to build fiber-optic infrastructure throughout rural North Carolina. Approximately 99.3 percent of the $144 million total investment is dedicated to the private sector.

This historic expansion delivers critical middle-mile infrastructure and direct fiber connections to community anchor institutions throughout the state and helps make these kinds of services available to end users at fixed costs for the foreseeable future.