First round of $144 million Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative is complete

The first round of the $144 million Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative is complete, the Microelectronics Center of North Carolina announced in a recent press release. The initiative includes setting up a 10 gigabyte connection for the Asheville-based National Climatic Data Center:

Through first-phase commercial partner FRC LLC, which invested $4 million into the project, fiber is now available to serve commercial businesses and last-mile consumer broadband needs in these same regions.

The GLRBI is funded through grants from U.S. Department of Commerce’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and significant matching funds from private donations and investments including a $24 million investment from the Golden LEAF Foundation. Once complete through two phases, the GLRBI will greatly expand the reach and capacity of the North Carolina Research and Education Network in the state.

“This first phase of the project already is having a positive impact on student learning, patient outcomes in health care, economic outcomes in job creation and community development, and is accelerating innovation and research all across the state,” said MCNC President and CEO Joe Freddoso. “Our goal is to continue creating infrastructure that meets the advanced needs of research, education, and health care while stabilizing costs to consumers and small businesses in areas where affordable broadband currently isn’t available.”

Since the project began, all North Carolina Community Colleges have been connected to NCREN; the video services infrastructure on the network was upgraded; East Carolina University received a 10gig network upgrade and now serves as a hub for most of eastern North Carolina; the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville now has a 10gig connection, Vidant Medical Center in Pitt County became the first not-for-profit hospital connected to the N.C. Telehealth Network via NCREN, and finally, spending on engineering and construction attributed to the project has created and/or saved hundreds of jobs throughout the state.

MCNC Twitter Town HallTo celebrate this achievement, MCNC will host its first online Twitter Town Hall today (Friday, April 27) at 11 a.m. EDT and will answer questions about the GLRBI and expansion of broadband connectivity in North Carolina live at This online-only event is an invitation from MCNC for anyone to participate in an open exchange about the project, its impacts, and future trends concerning networking and the rising need for bandwidth. Questions will be selected both in advance and in real-time during the event. To have your voice heard, tweet in questions using the hashtag #askMCNC. You can track the conversation three ways by watching the event live, follow live tweets from @MCNC or @GLRBI, or search out #askMCNC on Twitter. …

About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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