Governor Cooper Announces Nearly $10 Million to Expand Internet Access
Photo by Bryan Hanks / Neuse News
Lenoir, Greene and Jones Counties will see better internet access in the future.
On Wednesday, Governor Roy Cooper made the announcement, along with the N.C. Department of Information Technology and its Broadband Infrastructure Office of 19 rural, economically disadvantaged counties in the state receiving the benefit with the help of nearly $10 million in grants.
“Access to reliable, high-speed internet service is critical for businesses to grow, students to learn, and communities to thrive,” Cooper said. “These grants will help connect thousands of homes and businesses with opportunities across the state and around the world.”
The Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) program provides matching grants to internet service providers and electric membership cooperatives that compete for funding to lower financial barriers that prevent high speed internet service expansion in Tier 1 counties.
Twenty-one applicants in 19 counties will receive a total of $9,855,026 in GREAT Grant funding to bring high-speed internet access to 9,800 households and more than 590 businesses, agricultural operations and community institutions like libraries, schools and hospitals. Of the 14 companies receiving grant funding, 11 are North Carolina-based small businesses, telephone cooperatives and an electric membership cooperative.
“Too many communities across the state lack broadband speeds that are critical to doing homework, applying for a job, or seeing a doctor without leaving home,” Eric Boyette, State CIO and Secretary of the Department of Information Technology said. “Rural parts of the state are the most dramatically affected by this digital divide. The GREAT Grant program is one way our state is tackling this problem.”
To increase internet access across North Carolina, Cooper recently launched a new Governor’s Task Force on Connecting North Carolina. Cooper’s latest budget invests $35 million for efforts to expand access to broadband internet service, including an additional $30 million for more GREAT grants plus $5 million to close the homework gap for students across the state without home internet access.
The GREAT Grant Program was established by Session Law 2018-5. Eligible areas are census blocks or portions of census blocks in Tier One counties that lack access to a service providing a minimum of 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Megabit per second upload speeds. The state classifies the 40 most economically distressed counties in the state as Tier One counties.
Applicants are scored based on the number of households, businesses and agricultural operations they propose to serve, the average cost to serve those households and the speeds offered. Applicants receive higher awards for agreeing to provide higher speed service, defined as a minimum of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload.
To learn more, go to https://www.ncbroadband.gov/greatgrant.