RIAA Support Will Propel Eastern N.C. Fiber Optic Program Forward

August 22, 2002

Commission members of the state’s Rural Internet Access Authority (RIAA) approved a $2.9 million grant for a fiber optic cable backbone that will stretch from Moyock to Wilmington. The fiber network, being built along the same route as the natural gas pipeline already under construction, holds the potential for impacting 39 counties astride or east of Interstate 95.

The Albemarle-Pamlico Economic Development Corporation (APEC) will work to create a new organization to build and operate the fiber network to ensure all area citizens have access to the telemedicine, distance learning, e-commerce and online government services it will provide.

“We appreciate the Rural Internet Access Authority’s support of this project, which will provide a major economic boost for Eastern North Carolina,” said Cliff Copeland, chairman of the APEC Fiber Committee and a member of APEC’s board of directors. “The fiber backbone will result in aggregated demand, lower costs and greater access to affordable high-speed Internet service to improve the quality of life for the average citizen in this part of our state.”

Several other organizations and public entities have provided funding for the project. Those partners include EMC Fiber LLC, representing a core group of North Carolina’s electric cooperatives; the N.C. Research Education Network, representing the University of North Carolina system; the University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina; and the Golden Leaf Foundation.

“Through the APEC fiber network, these entities can offer state-of-the-art telemedicine and educational opportunities at affordable prices to the citizens and institutions they serve,” Copeland said. “This connectivity is crucial for ensuring Eastern North Carolina has affordable access to the technology and training that for years has enabled our state’s metropolitan areas to attract and retain good industries necessary for economic growth.”

Construction of the fiber project began in the fall of 2001 and is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2004.