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WHITEVILLE, NC (WWAY) — In October 2010 Rep. Mike McIntyre announced that southern Columbus County had received a federal grant to bring high-speed internet to the area. Today McIntyre, local leaders and businessmen celebrated the near completion of the service just outside Whiteville.

“It’s a miraculous change for this whole region,” McIntyre said.

More than a year ago ATMC received $16 million in federal funds to bring high-speed internet to southern Columbus County. Now the program is 80 percent complete.

Rep. McIntyre says it benefits more than 8,700 people and is both creating and saving jobs.

“We remember when President Clinton came (to Columbus County) back in the year 2000. We talked about bridging the digital divide,” McIntyre said. “Well, today and since then, we’ve been working constantly to make sure that people have opportunity.”

Rural broadband in the area will stretch between 35 community institutions. More than that, it will positively impact several businesses and even the next generation.

“Rural broadband is going to help here in Columbus County so that our kids can have the same opportunity as any kid you’ll find in the more metropolitan areas like a Charlotte or Greensboro or New York even,” USDA NC Director Randall Gore said. “It’s going to allow them an opportunity to do homework in real time. It’s going to allow farmers or other suppliers in the area to sell there wears in real time and compete.”

Rural broadband is already having a positive affect on hundreds of businesses in Columbus County, especially Gore’s Trailers, which hosted Monday’s event.

“The tremendous advantage is that we are able to communicate with our customers now because most all of our customers want to do e-mails,” Gore Trailers President Jackson Gore said. “Before we were on dial-up, which was almost impossible.”

Gore has been led the company for 46 years. He says it has had the high-speed connection since Christmas and that he can now share with his wide range of customers the progress of their work in real time.

“Now we just have to learn more and add more to it but at least we have high-speed,” Gore said.

Customers in Columbus County who want high-speed internet at home can subscribe through ATMC.

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