State announces $30M to expand internet access in rural areas

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Computer keyboard (Photo: Pixabay)

NORTH CAROLINA (WWAY) — Nearly $30 million will go to fund 18 broadband infrastructure projects with a goal of connecting 15,965 households and 703 businesses in rural North Carolina to high-speed internet, Governor Roy Cooper announced Thursday.

The grants are part of the 2020 Special Supplementary Round of the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) Grant program and will be distributed through the N.C. Department of Information Technology (NCDIT) Broadband Infrastructure Office (BIO).

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“This pandemic is shining a light on the need for better high speed internet access in rural communities,” Governor Cooper said. “These projects will the make sure the internet can connect people to the education, health care and jobs they need.”

The GREAT program provides matching grants to internet service providers and electric membership cooperatives that compete for funding to expand high-speed internet service. For this special supplementary round, projects in Tier 1, Tier 2 and rural census tracts of Tier 3 counties were eligible.

A total of $29.8 million is being awarded to 11 providers and cooperatives for projects in 18 counties, as follows:

  • Bladen – Star Telephone Membership Corp.
  • Brunswick – ATMC
  • Buncombe – French Broad Electric Membership Corp.
  • Caldwell – Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corp.
  • Cherokee – CND Acquisition Corp.
  • Clay – Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corp.
  • Columbus – ATMC
  • Duplin- ATMC
  • Franklin – CenturyLink
  • Greene -Nfinity Link Communications Inc.
  • Harnett – CenturyLink
  • Johnston – CenturyLink
  • Pamlico – CenturyLink
  • Pitt – CenturyLink
  • Robeson – ATMC
  • Rockingham – Spectrum Southeast, LLC
  • Sampson – StarVision Inc.
  • Transylvania- Citizens Telephone Co.

Applicants are scored based on the number of households and businesses they propose to serve, the average cost to serve those locations and the speeds offered. Applicants receive higher awards for agreeing to provide higher speed service, defined as a minimum of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload. All awards are contingent on final executed grant agreements with these broadband provider partners.