RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Fresh from landing $11 million in new federal funding, RTP-based MCNC says it has the dollars needed for a $19 million expansion of its statewide NCREN fiber-optic network.

Lee, Harnett, Cumberland and Sampson counties as well as others will benefit, according to a map (above) outlining the new fiber connectivity to come.

“MCNC continues to be the organization whose bold technology solutions can bring equity, inclusion and security to the digital landscape through the development of robust broadband,” said Keith Werner, Vice President for IT Strategy and Cybersecurity at UNC System Office and current chairman of the MCNC Board of Directors. “Broadband technologies are an essential economic asset for communities all throughout North Carolina, and MCNC has been consistent and persistent for many years in leveling the digital playing field.”

Added MCNC President and CEO Tracy Doaks: “This is our moment to make sure every North Carolina community is among the most connected in the nation. MCNC is ready to support this mission.”

The news came a day after North Carolina’s broadband office disclosed that lack of high-speed internet access locations surge more than 100,000.

Lack of high-speed internet access locations surge more than 100,000, NC says

The new project will cost $19 million in all. MCNC said no state tax dollars will be used.

It 209 fiber miles via two strategic routes: Albemarle to Winston-Salem (74 miles) and between Sanford via Fayetteville to Jacksonville (135 miles).

According to MCNC, the expansion in 11 counties include more than 16,000 unserved and 12,000 underserved housing units, including many substantially unserved local communities.

NC fiber network provider MCNC lands $11M+ in federal funding

“In total, HERO would impact over 350,000 housing units and 696 community anchor institutions, bringing new opportunities to these rural and economically-challenged areas,” MCNC said.

The $11.2 million grant is from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for the High-speed Economies for Rural Opportunity (HERO) Project.

Dollars for some 35 projects were disclosed and come from a federal bipartisan infrastructure law which includes an “Internet for All” plan.

The initiative was unveiled at MCNC in May of last year.

How federal funds have boosted MCNC’s network

MCNC has been recognized as a White House Champion of Change and has been a celebrated steward of funding, including the successful completion of the $144 million Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative through the NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) in 2012-13. That project expanded broadband infrastructure more than 2,600 miles through 82 counties across the state. MCNC’s network today is nearly 4,500 miles while the organization continues to provide technology services in all 100 counties. The Golden LEAF Foundation again is supporting MCNC’s efforts and awarded $1,382,782.18 in August 2022 to be used as matching funds towards the southeastern North Carolina portion of the project.

Source: MCNC