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-B Tech meeting: Officials laud $104 million project to put rural NC on the information highway



8/16/2011 - -B Tech meeting: Officials laud $104 million project to put rural NC on the information highway
by Hunter Goosman/Jeff Forbes - Mountain XPress

CONNECTING RURAL NORTH CAROLINA to the internet is long overdue - and the money to do it has been short at best.  Now, the promise is made and the work will begin, right here in the mountains of Western North Carolina, thanks to local and state officials and AB Tech...


The promise of $104 million being spent in rural North Carolina to connect those area with the information highway was enough to bring officials together -- some in person and some via the Internet -- who applauded from four geographic locations across the state the beginning of a federal Broadband Technology and Opportunities Program grant award. The project will invest $104 million to build 1,200 miles of new broadband infrastructure throughout rural North Carolina, including direct fiber to nearly 180 educational institutions, including K-12 schools, community colleges, universities, and libraries.

A-B Tech was one of the statewide "virtual" groundbreaking locations to launch the second round of the NC-Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative. Among the attendees of the Aug. 12 event at A-B Technical Community College were Rep. Heath Shuler, Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy and A-B Tech President Hank Dunn.

Hunter Goosman provided text and photographic coverage via Twitter:

The GOLDEN LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative groundreaking is a virtual event across four NC sites.
Dan Gerlach: The project serves rural NC; this broadband investment enables a 10-to-1 return; the project creates jobs.
Sen Hagan: We're coming together for the kids, students, and for jobs in NC.
Congr McIntyre: Broadband is our road to the future.
Sen Hagan: This project is a defining moment for our state.
Congr Butterfield: We need to not only deploy broadband, but also encourage adoption.

Bellamy, Shuler, Dunn with shovels at the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative groundbreaking (photo: ).

Congr Shuler: The real winners here will be our children. (Congr Shuler speaking at the groundbreaking. )

Link to photo of Mayor Bellamy speaking at the groundbreaking:

The Education and Research Consortium is tasked with building the fiber optic cable in McDowell, Mitchell, Avery, Madison, and Buncombe counties - approximately 100 miles worth.

The federal grant to North Carolina is being handled by MCNC. In Western North Carolina, the project is being handled by the ERC, which is a partner to and subrecipient of MCNC.
MCNC's efforts will craft a statewide backbone to provide connectivity options to individual counties via the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN). In the western part of the state, the ERC is responsible for building a sort of local spider web off the backbone in order to connect WNC's anchor institutions with the backbone. It should be noted, however, that some of the spider web is already in place as part of the existing ERC network.

The ERC was created in 1997 to advance regional technology-based infrastructure. Today, the only active program, ERC Broadband, drives fiber optic-based broadband growth. The ERC network has, since 2003, been actively supporting its core constituents: educational, healthcare and governmental groups. Additionally, the ERC supports economic development efforts and rural broadband growth

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