Optical Cable Manufacturing Campus Opening in Hickory, North Carolina | Corning

Corning formally opens new cable manufacturing campus in North Carolina to help connect more people and communities

By Michael A. Bell
Published: March 30, 2023

Corning has been manufacturing optical fiber and cable in North Carolina for more than 40 years – but never have those network building blocks been more important than they are right now. The push is on to connect the unconnected, helping bring high-speed fiber broadband to more people and more communities. Here at Corning, we’re proud to be doing our part: We just formally opened our newest optical cable manufacturing campus in Hickory, North Carolina.

There was an air of celebration as we cut the ribbon for the plant. I was joined by Corning Chairman and CEO Wendell P. Weeks, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina RaimondoU.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce Alan DavidsonN.C. Gov. Roy Cooper, and Stephen Milner, representing NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association. As Wendell said at the event: “We are committed to doing our part to ensure that the transformational benefits of fiber connections are available to all Americans, regardless of where they live.”

We’re living in a time when broadband is coming to be recognized as essential infrastructure, much like electricity. Just look at all the public private investment in broadband, such as the federal government’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program. The inclusion of broadband in the public infrastructure program reflects the shared understanding that access to broadband means access to opportunities. Communities without reliable internet access are missing out on substantial economic, educational, and social benefits.

Our newest manufacturing campus at the Trivium Corporate Center in Hickory is part of Corning’s latest investment in fiber and cable manufacturing – a series of investments totaling more than $500 million since 2020. Altogether, these investments nearly double Corning's ability to serve the U.S. optical cable market, ensuring strong U.S. supply of optical fiber and cable to meet growing demand amid public and private investment in broadband deployment while supporting the federal government’s ‘Made in America’ provision.

We know our highly skilled workforce at our U.S. optical fiber and cable plants is essential to our success. Our capacity investment will not only help connect more people and more communities, it will create American jobs. This latest expansion will add more than 400 jobs to Corning’s North Carolina workforce of more than 5,000.  

Connecting Rural America

As we look to bridge the Digital Divide, here’s what is also clear: to fully connect America, we have to connect rural America. That represents a historic challenge and opportunity – akin to the monumental achievement of rural electrification a hundred years ago. Corning is committed to helping rural operators bridge the Digital Divide with cost-effective solutions that simplify their deployments.

We were proud to be joined by NTCA at the formal opening of our new manufacturing campus. In February, we announced a strategic collaboration with NTCA to make available an exclusive supply of cable and connectivity solutions specially reserved for NTCA members’ network buildouts. NTCA and Corning’s collaboration has created historic opportunities for rural network operators to gain priority access to industry-leading supply, helping their deployments stay on track and get more communities connected at a faster rate.

During our formal opening ceremony, we heard NTCA member and one of our customers, Stephen Milner, chief executive officer of Georgia-based Planters Broadband Cooperative, talk about the importance of partnership when it comes to rural deployments.

“These cable and connectivity solutions from Corning will benefit small, community-based broadband providers by helping us accelerate deployments and connect more Americans,” said Milner. “We thank Corning for the work it has done to increase domestic production capacity and to help address the concerns of smaller, rural providers regarding access to fiber-optic cable, and we look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Raimondo and her team to help ensure that the vision of the bipartisan infrastructure law can be realized.”

The central role of fiber

The cable we manufacture in Hickory will form the pathways for the hair-thin strands of optical fiber that carry data in the form of light signals. Low-loss optical fiber, invented by Corning more than 50 years ago, forms the backbone of today’s telecommunications networks. Only fiber can truly satisfy the bandwidth requirements of these networks at scale. Fiber has nearly unlimited bandwidth – once deployed, you can trust that it will outpace consumer demand for decades to come. A single optical fiber link can carry more than 50 terabits of data per second – enough to support 10 million simultaneous HD video streams.

Beyond enabling simplified and cost-effective deployments, fiber also creates more economic opportunity for the communities it connects. Communities with broadly deployed fiber networks observe tremendous economic benefits, such as a 35% boost in GDP. Total income is 73% higher for households with fiber broadband. America’s first gig-speed community-wide fiber network – which is in Chattanooga, Tennessee – has driven 40% of the city’s new jobs created over the past 10 years.

And yet currently only 19% of Americans are connected by fiber, and that number is even lower in rural areas. That’s why we’re proud to announce our domestic fiber and cable manufacturing expansion as we look to collaborate with network providers to connect more people and communities, helping make "Internet for All" a reality in rural America and beyond.

To learn more about our fiber optic solutions, click here.

Keith Martin with Corning Optical Communications

Michael A. Bell — 
Senior Vice President and General Manager, Optical Communications.

Michael A. Bell was appointed senior vice president and general manager, Optical Communications, in April 2020. In this role, Bell has end-to-end responsibilities for the Optical Communications Market-Access Platform, including Optical Fiber and Cable (OFC), Optical Connectivity Solutions (OCS), and Optical Commercial Operations (OCO). Bell joined Corning in 1991 as a process engineer for the Telecommunications Cable Plant in Hickory, North Carolina.

Prior to joining Corning, Bell served as a Submarine Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy.

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