RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Facebook is teaming with MCNC, the builder and operator of the state-wide fiber-based North Carolina Research and Education Network, to expand the availability of high-speed internet in western North Carolina.

The addition of some 100 miles of fiber being built by Facebook will connect with MCNC to make broadband available to a variety of community institutions such as schools, medical facilities and government offices in five counties:

  • Burke
  • Caldwell
  • Rutherford
  • Surry
  • Wilkes

Facebook will make available “dark” or unlit fiber. Financial terms were not disclosed.

MCNC, Facebook adding more fiber in western NC. (MCNC map)

Facebook has a major data center operation in Forest City.

“In March, Facebook announced it would start building unique fiber routes for their production network and that excess fiber would be made commercially available in the market,” a spokesperson for MCNC explained.

“North Carolina is one of the first states where a new fiber route is under construction, which when completed, will be more than 100 miles. Facebook’s contribution to this collaboration is only dark fiber, and MCNC is keenly interested in partnering with local residential carriers to leverage NCREN and enable better residential access throughout the state.”

MCNC works with commercial providers to extend access to its network that runs from the mountains to the coast.

“MCNC is excited about this project with Facebook as it will allow us to improve connectivity, redundancy and resiliency of the MCNC network in western North Carolina,” said MCNC CEO Jean Davis in a statement. “Facebook’s efforts to utilize their assets to help the local community is a great model for collaboration.”

Facebook is building a fiber rout from Forest City to Dobson with completion expected this year.

Facilities expected to be conntected to the extended network include:

  • Four local education agencies (Burke, Elkin, Rutherford and Wilkes County Schools)
  • Four community colleges
  • Three charter schools
  • The N.C. School for the Deaf
  • Five health care sites
  • Five agricultural extension offices
  • Four public safety locations
  • New western campus of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Morganton

“Facebook is looking forward to working with MCNC in this innovative way to connect important institutions that serve western North Carolina,” said Kevin Salvadori, Director of Network Investments at Facebook. “From health care to education, it is thrilling to think of more North Carolina residents living in rural communities benefiting from this connectivity.”

MCNC expanded NCREN statewide and completed the initial construction in 2013 at a cost of $144 million. In additions since then the network’s fiber footprint has been extended to some 4,000 miles from 2,600 miles. MCNC also provides various services beyond connectivity to its clients.

Facebook opened the Forest City center in 2012.

“Increasing access to high-speed internet is necessary for the survival and prosperity of our rural communities,” said Gov. Roy Cooper in a statement, who has actively supported broadband expansion efforts.

“This partnership will help people in western North Carolina grow their local businesses, further their education and find more affordable options for health care.”