High-Speed Broadband slated for northeastern North Carolina

Kesha Williams
April 26, 2010


Business and community leaders in northeastern North Carolina recently announced a series of commitments to the proposed $111 million Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative. The announcements included a donation of existing fiber optic conduit valued at over $4.5M and donations of land from Elizabeth City State University and Halifax Community College that will be part of $33M in matching funds.  These matching funds are offered to help secure $78 million in federal funds to bring broadband fiber to 23 counties across northeastern North Carolina.  In total, the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative will reach 69 counties in North Carolina.  Sixty-seven of the 69 counties are currently underserved or partially underserved for broadband connections.

"Many citizens and Community Anchor Institutions in northeastern North Carolina have been left behind in the race to deploy broadband Internet services," said Paul Tine, Chairman of the Create the Future Initiative. "Our collective commitment to the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative is a sign of our region's willingness to pursue opportunities to bridge what historically has been northeastern North Carolina's digital divide." 

The northeastern region's commitment to the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative includes the donation of existing fiber optic conduit that was built by the Albermarle Pamlico Economic Development Corporation (APEC) as part of the APEC gas line project that was completed in 2004.   The donation of small parcels of land on the campuses of Elizabeth City State University and Halifax Community College will be used to place optical networking equipment that assists in the movement of Internet traffic across the new fiber network. 

"Elizabeth City State University is proud to support the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative.  For many years, ECSU students and faculty have been part of the world of virtual learning," said Willie Gilchrist, Chancellor Elizabeth City State University.  "The Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative if funded will allow our students to grow their use of the Internet and virtual learning technologies in an unconstrained manner.  This will allow them to broaden their education and prepare them to succeed as citizens of an interconnected world." 

The donations of conduit and land were made to MCNC, the non-profit operator of the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN).  NCREN provides Internet connectivity to almost all public education students in K12 and higher education in North Carolina.  MCNC is the lead applicant on the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative.  If funded MCNC will build a $111 million broadband fiber network that will include 1,448 miles of new fiber through 69 counties in northeastern, northwestern, north central and south central North Carolina.   The conduit and land donations were used as part of $33M in matching funds required for the application.  North Carolina's Golden LEAF foundation provided $24M of the required match.

"The Golden LEAF Foundation has long supported efforts to grow jobs, investment and opportunity in Northeastern North Carolina," said Dan Gerlach, President of the Golden LEAF Foundation.  "Broadband will help level the playing field in our ongoing efforts to build the economy of  the Northeast."

The Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative will greatly increase the broadband capacity and stabilize costs for 179 public school systems, community college campuses, libraries, universities, and other public institutions through direct connections to the existing North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN). MCNC has operated NCREN for the last quarter century. In January 2010, MCNC received $40M in the first round of federal funding to build out NCREN in the southeast and western portion of North Carolina

"Available bandwidth should not be a limiting factor in access to education, receiving modern healthcare or seeking economic prosperity," said Michael A. Murphy, Chairman of the MCNC board of directors.  "If the initiative is funded northeastern North Carolina will not be on the wrong side of the digital divide."

Press release appears courtesy of The Golden LEAF Foundation. For more information, contact: 
Jenny Tinklepaugh
The Golden Leaf Foundation
The Media Relations
888-684-8404 for more information.