MCNC is a 30+ year old non-profit corporation. It was created to seed technology based economic development in North Carolina and to provide advanced network services to the 17 institutions of the University of North Carolina System. At the time of MCNC’s creation in 1980, the network services offered were a combination of microwave video and proprietary data connectivity over copper.
MCNC’s provision of network services has evolved and over the last 3 decades. With the onset of Internet Protocol and high speed fiber & high capacity fiber optic networks, MCNC’s helped build the North Carolina Research and Education (NCREN) network to serve the broadband connectivity needs of public education, public health and healthcare and other community anchor institutions in North Carolina. NCREN is a high speed, low latency optical backbone that today serves the bandwidth needs of:
The bandwidth needs of these institutions are varied. NCREN supports all users, from dedicated point to point connectivity needed by a genomics researcher at UNC-Chapel Hill who is doing collaborative research with a colleague across the globe to a third grade student at Cape Hatteras elementary on the Outer Banks needing fast access to dress up a Power point with a video download.
In 2007, MCNC engineers through a commissioned study found that with bandwidth demand among the rural Community Anchor Institutions served by NCREN growing at 30-40% annually. These Community Anchor institutions served by NCREN would consume the available capacity of the existing broadband infrastructure in rural NC in the next 5-7 years. Not surprisingly, these were the same areas of the State of North Carolina where the private sector lacked infrastructure to meet the increasing need for broadband service of consumers and small businesses.
MCNC partnered with the private sector, the North Carolina General Assembly, the North Carolina Delegation to Congress and the office of Governor Beverly Perdue to think ahead. MCNC and its partners chose to look beyond the minimal standards of consumer broadband service – which at the time were undefined for Community Anchor Institutions and 768Kbps Down and 250Kbps up for consumers. The focus became building a middle mile infrastructure that could support a world where our Community Anchor Institutions directly served by the NCREN middle mile could grow their bandwidth use at stable costs for the future but also to provide capacity to commercial service provider wholesalers and retailers to serve the bandwidth needs of our rural citizens. We wanted to take a major step towards building an infrastructure that could support a world where:
The result of MCNC’s plan to think ahead was two rounds of broadband infrastructure funding from the US Department of Commerce’s Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program (BTOP). The facts surrounding this funding are:
We are now more than halfway through implementing the largest recorded single investment in broadband infrastructure in North Carolina’s History. MCNC is looking forward to the benefits that will accrue to the citizens of North Carolina as we put this critical infrastructure into service.
Joe Freddoso is President and CEO of MCNC, where he leads the independent, non-profit corporation in its mission to provide advanced Intranet and Internet networking services to Community Anchor Institutions in North Carolina.