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Rural North Carolina gets fiber optic grants

By Max Burkhalter
December 9, 2010
The Microelectronics Center of North Carolina, a North Carolina-based non-profit education technology organization, recently released a request for proposal for research relating to the expansion of its North Carolina Research and Education Network. The goal of the RFP is to find a vendor to provide materials for routes that the MCNC has funded through a $75.8 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

In addition to the federal grant, the project is being funded by $31.3 million in privately raised funds, including $24 million from the Golden LEAF Foundation.

One of the network’s goals is to expand the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative. GLRBI is a project that will build fiber optic infrastructures in 69 rural counties around North Carolina.

GlRBI’s goal is to help bridge North Carolina’s prosperity gap by giving broadband connectivity to rural and lower-income communities. It currently has more than 1,000 miles of fiber optic cable laid throughout the state. The expanded network will provide fiber optic, broadband internet connections to a variety of facilities, including community colleges, libraries, schools, and health facilities.

Rural areas throughout North Carolina lack broadband connectivity.

The RFP is particularly important because of the sheer amount of materials needed to build the network. The RFP will purchase approximately 2,000 miles of fiber optic cable, 30,000 couplers and 25 telecommunication huts. The vendor chosen to supply these materials must be able to demonstrate is ability to deliver them within two to three years.

MCNC has enlisted the aid of the North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development in choosing the provider of its fiber optic cable network materials.

“NCIMED is pleased to assist MCNC in the implementation of the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative,” said Andrea Harris, NCIMED’s executive director. “Small, disadvantaged and minority-owned businesses have significant opportunities to work on portions of the GLRBI as prime and sub-contractors.”

Communities around the world recognize the potential of fiber optic connectivity in rural area. Recently, J.S. Sharma, chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, said every village in the country would be connected to a broadband network by 2012. “The national broadband plan will be out soon, and we will extend broadband connections to every village in the country that has a population of more than 500 people,” he said at a summit in Delhi. The country recently began preparing for the launch of its a 3G network.


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