Crews have been working in Mount Airy to install fiber-optic cable, the latest leg locally of an ambitious project to connect schools and other facilities to a statewide information network.
The work has been under way on Rockford Street (U.S. 601) since about Nov. 1, headed by Edwards Telecommunications Inc., a South Carolina firm.
It reflects an effort by a non-profit corporation, the Microelectronics Center of North Carolina (MCNC). It operates the N.C. Research and Education Network, which is involved with connecting all K-12 schools, community colleges, universities and select non-profit health care sites.
The underground installation of fiber-optic cable allows these entities to be linked to each other, the Internet and global research networks at high speeds. The intent behind the project is that access to a broadband and fiber-optic infrastructure is essential for innovation and economic development everywhere in North Carolina.
Such technology allows transmissions over greater distances and at higher bandwidths (data rates) than other forms of communication.
Done In Phases
The fiber-optic cable project in Surry County is occurring in phases, according to Mount Airy officials.
An initial phase that was 18 miles long stretched from West Pine Street into Dobson and on to Surry Community College.
Phase Two, which is now under way, has included extending cable from SCC north along U.S. 601/Rockford Street toward the public library in Mount Airy, which crews were approaching Friday. The work generally has been occurring on the east side of the roadway.
From the library, the route progresses to nearby Graves Street and then west on Pine Street, before turning north on North South Street and continuing to the Mount Airy High School-Orchard Street area.
While private contractors have been handling the installation, the city government has been involved from an advisory standpoint, according to Jeff Boyles, Mount Airy’s public services director.
As the crews approached the city, a substantial degree of directional boring was required as the installation contractor navigated around existing buried infrastructure, according to city Community Development Coordinator Martin Collins.
“They’re working with us to avoid the water and sewer (pipes),” Boyles explained, along with electrical and telephone lines or other fixtures already buried throughout the installation path.
A “tremendous amount” of pinpointing has been involved to keep the fiber-optic crews from disturbing any existing components, he added. “And, of course, that has taken up some of our time, but they seem to be moving along pretty well, Boyles said.
In 2010, the state received $28.2 million from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to build the 480-mile fiber-optic network for the N.C. Research and Education Network.
Officials said then that the construction was expected to last up to three years and cut across 37 counties. The completed network has the potential to serve more than 1,500 school and community institutions, 180,000 businesses and more than 300,000 underserved families.
Due to the non-profit Microelectronics Center of North Carolina raising $11.7 million in matching funds for the federal allocation, the project represents a total investment of $40 million.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.