Special to WRAL Tech Wire

(Editor’s note: Now in its fourth year, the 12 Days of Broadband runs Dec. 4 through Dec. 19 highlighting a dozen innovations and stories directly impacted by the expanding reach of high-speed connectivity this year in North Carolina and throughout the country.)

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – This year marked a milestone for MCNC as the technology nonprofit celebrated the 30th anniversary of the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN).

NCREN is one of the nation’s finest statewide research and education networks available today. But, NCREN is much more just than a network. It is a broadband backbone for collaboration in North Carolina.

MCNC began as an economic development and research innovation center in the semi-conductor industry. The number of patents produced and companies incubated only tell part of the story. What MCNC really did was attract great companies and tech talent to North Carolina as well as better retain the great minds in technology innovation that were graduating from NC State, UNC Chapel Hill, Duke, NC A&T University, UNC Charlotte and many others. Finally, it allowed the organization to build out, scale and sustain NCREN.

The past 30 years have brought tremendous economic changes in North Carolina and growth in the state’s tech-based economy. In that time, MCNC has built one of the nation’s most future-proof networks serving education, research and health care for the entire state. MCNC’s backbone network efficiently and cost-effectively delivers broadband services to community institutions throughout North Carolina as high-speed connectivity continues to evolve into an essential economic asset. And, NCREN is engineered to have virtually unlimited capacity to grow with increasing bandwidth demand.

NCREN has provided the broadband infrastructure to connect North Carolina citizens to the path of success for the last three decades. The historic 2,600-mile expansion of NCREN completed in 2013 now gives even more citizens in almost every county in North Carolina access to high-speed, broadband connectivity. Today, NCREN serves the broadband infrastructure needs of more than 500 community institutions including all K-20 public education in North Carolina. NCREN is one of the nation’s premier backbone networks, and its expanded capabilities now allows MCNC to customize services and applications for users more than ever before as they also look to further enable private-sector providers to bring cost-effective broadband infrastructure to rural and underserved areas of North Carolina.

MCNC has built NCREN to serve the large bandwidth needs of heavy-duty university computing systems and research labs, and their model of owned fiber and dedicated bandwidth for research on NCREN gives North Carolina’s best researchers a real competitive advantage in seeking federal and private funding to advance their ideas. NCREN also was built to serve the daily bandwidth needs of key institutions including all of North Carolina’s K-12 public schools; all 58 campuses of the North Carolina Community College System and all 17 institutions of the UNC System. Chances are if you’re a student in North Carolina, every time you download a study guide or upload a video for an assignment, you’re doing it over NCREN.

MCNC’s progressive business model will help North Carolina continue to grow bandwidth availability with stable pricing for the foreseeable future. And, by sharing broadband assets with private-sector companies, MCNC also can help bring the advantages of enhanced broadband to consumers and businesses throughout North Carolina. This will give rise to new ideas, greater educational attainment, better access to health care, and accelerated job growth. And with the expected connectivity of everything, sometimes called the Internet of Things, North Carolina is positioned to take advantage of the economic advancements and opportunities that will take place from that innovation.

The history of NCREN is truly one of innovative firsts.

We hope you enjoyed this year’s 12 Days of Broadband.