Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday the state will award more than $12 million in grants to expand high-speed internet in 11 rural North Carolina counties.
The purpose of the grants, Cooper said, is to help bridge the digital gap for rural families who need access to high-speed internet for remote learning and telehealth purposes.
The grants were funded by the state’s Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) grant and COVID-19 Recovery Act funding. Cooper’s office said the grants are expected to connect 8,017 families and 254 businesses, farms and community institutions to high-speed internet.
“Too many North Carolinians lack access to the lifeline that high-speed internet connectivity offers. This divide is especially stark, currently, when residents are being asked to work, learn, access services and interact online more than ever,” Acting North Carolina Department of Information Technology Secretary and State Chief Information Officer Thomas Parrish said. “Because of the GREAT grants, thousands of households and hundreds of businesses in our state will finally have more options to connect, compete and thrive.”
The GREAT grant program provides matching grants to internet service providers and electric membership cooperatives that compete for funding to expand high-speed internet service in distressed counties.
Eleven providers and cooperatives were awarded $10.2 million to connect 6,860 households and 243 businesses, agricultural operations and community anchor institutions to broadband:
An additional award of $2 million from COVID-19 Recovery Act funding to Spectrum Southeast LLC will enable broadband deployments in a second area of Robeson County, connecting 1,157 households and 11 businesses, agricultural operations and community anchor institutions to broadband.
Six more last-mile broadband projects, located in Columbus, Duplin, Graham and Swain counties, are under consideration for COVID-19 Recovery Act funding, Cooper’s office said.