Federal Government Backs Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative

Federal Government Backs Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative

North Carolina benefits from over $140 million in two rounds of historic funding to MCNC to expand high-speed connectivity through the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN)

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. (Aug. 18, 2010) – The U.S. Department of Commerce announced today that MCNC, an independent non-profit organization that employs advanced networking technologies and systems to improve learning and collaboration throughout North Carolina’s K-20 education community, has been awarded $75.75 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Broadband Recovery Funds through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) to support the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative (GLRBI).

This award builds on MCNC’s Round 1 BTOP award, a $39.9 million project (including $28.2 million in BTOP Funds) granted in January 2010 to build 480 miles of fiber in 37 counties in southeastern and western N.C.

The GLRBI will enhance the existing North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN), which MCNC has operated for the last quarter century, and will add to the existing ERC Broadband Network operated by the non-profit ERC Broadband in western North Carolina. Approximately 1,300 miles of new middle-mile fiber will be built throughout the state under this latest award. In addition, about 400 miles of existing fiber will be provided to the GLRBI through lease agreements and donations. The middle-mile is the sector of the network that connects last-mile facilities such as telecom company local interconnection points (central offices) with the commercial Internet and with national and global advanced research networks such as Internet2 and National Lambda Rail.

The Golden LEAF Foundation Board of Directors awarded $24 million in matching funds for the Round 2 grant. An additional $5.25 million in match was raised from the MCNC endowment, donations of land from individual community colleges and universities, and a donation of already-installed conduit in northeastern North Carolina from the Albemarle Pamlico Economic Development Corporation. UNC-Chapel Hill’s Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute for Entrepreneurship and School of Government helped prepare the GLRBI application.

MCNC raised $11.7 million in matching funds for its successful Round 1 application through private sources, including $4 million from the MCNC endowment.

North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue congratulated MCNC and the Golden LEAF Foundation as well as commended U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and his team at the NTIA for making this second middle-mile investment in North Carolina through the BTOP program.

“This investment provides North Carolina with a robust broadband infrastructure that will help deliver access to education, through NCREN, that is not defined geographically but is equitable for every student at every level of education,” said Gov. Perdue. “This infrastructure also helps us scale to meet the health care needs of our most rural citizens, and levels the playing field in attracting high-paying jobs to rural North Carolina.”

The GLRBI expands the NCREN footprint to traverse a total of 69 counties in the rural Northeastern, North Central, Northwest and South Central parts of North Carolina. Sixty-seven of these counties are designated as rural, according to Federal Highway Administration standards, and are designated as fully or partially underserved with respect to the availability of broadband service.

MCNC’s application for ARRA recovery funds was tendered to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s NTIA and BTOP on March 25, a day prior to the March 26 deadline. For Round 2, the program required a 20-percent funding match by applicants but gave priority review to applications raising 30 percent in matching funds. The design, construction, and operation of the network could create more than 1,000 engineering/construction jobs.

The new fiber-optic build will connect with the existing-owned NCREN fiber in North Carolina’s urban core as well as the new Round 1 BTOP fiber. The GLRBI will greatly increase the broadband capacity and stabilize bandwidth and Internet access costs for public school systems, community college campuses, libraries, universities, and other community anchor institutions that connect to NCREN.

In addition, many private-sector wholesalers and last-mile service providers have expressed interest to MCNC in leasing fiber on the GLRBI. More than a dozen letters of support and interest from private-sector service providers were included in the GLRBI application. As a result, every region of the newly-funded fiber build will likely have private-sector partners who will increase the broadband service options for citizens and businesses in these areas.

Additional Quotes & Reactions in North Carolina

U.S. Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC): “This second grant of $75.75 million to MCNC — which is on top of $39.9 million awarded in January — is a serious investment in broadband infrastructure for North Carolina. North Carolinians in the areas gaining this technology will now have 21st-century broadband infrastructure, which will boost job growth in our state. When this fiber is built, students in rural schools, community colleges and four-year colleges and universities will access a network that will meet their research and education needs well into the future. With this award, many more North Carolinians will have broadband access, and I will continue working in the senate to secure broadband funding for North Carolina.”

Dan Gerlach, President, Golden LEAF Foundation: “The areas of the state covered by the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative continue to transition their economies to compete globally. The Golden LEAF Foundation’s Board of Directors viewed the investment in the GLRBI as an opportunity to provide essential infrastructure, take advantage of federal matching dollars, and invest directly in efforts to grow stronger communities.”

University of North Carolina President Erskine Bowles: “This BTOP award is truly a game changer for North Carolina. Since 1999, the Rural Prosperity Task Force and our state’s leaders have highlighted the importance of statewide access to broadband for our students and citizens. The funding of the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative is the most significant event toward meeting this goal since it was crafted over a decade ago. For the University system, an NCREN with a statewide fiber footprint will enable our institutions to accelerate the pace of innovation and research, educate greater numbers of students, and address the health care, education, and economic needs of North Carolina’s citizens in greater numbers. NCREN truly is a digital pathway through which our public university can reach all citizens of the state.”

Michael A. Murphy, chairman, MCNC Board of Directors: “North Carolina has long supported affordable broadband networks to ensure a high quality of life and a globally-competitive future for its citizens, businesses, and communities. Securing second-round funding provides critical broadband infrastructure to areas of the state that without the BTOP program would likely never see this investment. We are pleased our application has been funded by the NTIA and are grateful that the Golden LEAF Foundation saw fit to invest into this project.”

Hunter Goosmann, General Manager, ERC Broadband: “ERC Broadband is proud to be part of the GLRBI. With the BTOP funding we will enhance and expand broadband services to key education, public safety, health care institutions in Western North Carolina. This is another significant step in bringing enhanced broadband services that will benefit the citizens of Western North Carolina.”

Reference Guide & MCNC Application Information

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 appropriated $7.2 billion and directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) to expand broadband access to unserved and underserved communities across the U.S., increase jobs, spur investments in technology and infrastructure, and provide long-term economic benefits. The result is the RUS Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) and the NTIA Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). BIP will make loans and grants for broadband infrastructure projects in rural areas. BTOP will provide grants to fund broadband infrastructure, public computer centers, and sustainable broadband adoption projects. Of that $7.2 billion, $4.7 billion has been allotted to the NTIA to award grants. The remaining $2.5 billion was allotted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make loans to companies building out broadband infrastructure in rural areas.

MCNC Filing
MCNC filed the GLRBI application on March 25; one day prior to the March 26 filing deadline.

MCNC’s Package Details
MCNC’s application was 400 pages of information that included an executive summary and letters of support from several government and private-sector leaders throughout North Carolina. Highlights of the package include:

  • More than 130 letters of support including approximately 70 from state, county and municipal officials and 12 from middle-mile and last-mile service providers interested in using the network to reach last-mile consumers and small businesses.
  • In the 69 counties being impacted, there are 5.9 million residents. Sixty-seven of the 69 counties fully qualify as underserved per the NTIA definition or have smaller underserved pockets within them. There are a total of 4,066 CAIs, including 1,718 K-12 schools, 61 community college main and satellite campuses and 33 baccalaureate degree granting 4 year colleges and universities. In addition there are 254 public libraries, and 1,887 municipal, county and state public safety facilities. A comprehensive set of economic, education and public health statistics are included in the upload section.
  • The original GLRBI requests $77,977,126 in BTOP funds. The actual funding awarded is $75,757,289. The adjustments came during the due diligence review process for the application. The adjustments mainly involved a changing of the type and quantity of conduit used in the build.

Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative Fact Sheet

This 69-county service area encompasses approximately:

  • 32,597 square miles (67% of North Carolina’s total square miles)
  • 5.93 million total population (66% of North Carolina’s population)
  • 2.32 million households (66% of North Carolina’s households)
  • 160,000 businesses (68% of North Carolina’s businesses)
  • 4,066 community anchor institutions (68% of North Carolina’s CAIs)
  • Approximately 709,500 households without access to broadband (31% of households)

Total Project Value:

  • $105 million
  • $75.75 million requested from National Telecommunications and Information Administration BTOP
  • $29.25 million in matching funds raised in N.C., including $24 million from Golden LEAF Foundation

Estimated Jobs Created:

  • More than 1,000 temporary engineering and construction jobs (average period 1.5 years)

Sixty-nine BTOP2 counties:

  • Alleghany, Anson, Ashe, Avery, Beaufort, Bertie, Brunswick, Buncombe, Cabarrus, Caldwell, Camden, Carteret, Caswell, Chatham, Chowan, Cleveland, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Currituck, Dare, Edgecombe, Franklin, Gaston, Gates, Graham, Granville, Halifax, Harnett, Haywood, Henderson, Hertford, Hyde, Jackson, Lee, Lincoln, Madison, Martin, McDowell, Mecklenburg, Mitchell, Moore, Nash, New Hanover, Northampton, Onslow, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Person, Pitt, Polk, Richmond, Robeson, Rockingham, Rutherford, Scotland, Stokes, Surry, Swain, Transylvania, Tyrrell, Union, Vance, Wake, Warren, Washington, Watauga, Wilson, and Yancey

Download the GLRBI Fact Sheet

Online Resources & Downloads

About MCNC 
MCNC is an independent, non-profit organization that employs advanced networking technologies and systems to continuously improve learning and collaboration throughout North Carolina’s K20 education community. MCNC provides advanced communications technologies and support services that enable access to 21st century learning applications and offers the opportunity to improve teaching, learning, research and collaboration among North Carolina’s education community. For a quarter century, the 501c3 non-profit organization, MCNC, has operated a robust, secure, exclusive communications network that has connected the institutions of the University of North Carolina System, Duke University and Wake Forest University to each other and through advanced research networks such as Internet2 and National Lambda Rail, to the world. Visit www.mcnc.org.

The North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN) is one of the nation’s first statewide education and research networks. It provides broadband communications technology services and support to K-12 school districts, higher education campuses and academic research institutions across North Carolina. MCNC offers the NCREN network, technology tools and services to guarantee equal access to 21st century learning by providing a future-proof technology network that is the foundation for change and innovation in our educational systems. It creates possibility and provides an equitable educational experience throughout the state.

About Golden LEAF Foundation
The Golden LEAF Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 1999 to help transform North Carolina’s economy. The foundation receives one-half of North Carolina’s funds from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with cigarette manufacturers and places special emphasis on assisting tobacco-dependent, economically distressed and/or rural communities across the state. The Golden LEAF Foundation works in partnership with governmental entities, educational institutions, economic development organizations and nonprofits to achieve its mission. The foundation has awarded 971 grants worth over $459 million since its inception. To learn more about applying for a grant, visit www.goldenleaf.org or call (888) 684-8404.

Acceptable Use Policy
MCNC, NCREN, and the North Carolina STEM Community Collaborative (NC STEM), respect the Intellectual Property rights of others. MCNC, NCREN, NC STEM and all other product or service names are registered trademarks in the USA and other countries. ® indicates USA registration. Whenever your document or writing uses materials or information that is copyrighted by either MCNC, NCREN or NC STEM you must obtain permission. All requests for permission to use copyrighted materials, along with a copy of the materials you wish to use and a description of the document you are writing and how it will be published and/or distributed, should be sent to MCNC, NCREN and/or NC STEM communications representatives for prior approval. In addition, certain statements made are considered forward looking, reflecting each organizations current intent, belief or expectations. MCNC, NCREN or NC STEM undertake no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statements herein whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. For any additional questions or for clarity regarding acceptable use, contact the individual organization’s communications office.

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