Five new projects will expand high-speed internet access for residents in three rural counties, Governor Roy Cooper announced today along with the N.C. Department of Information Technology (NCDIT) and its Broadband Infrastructure Office (BIO). The projects are made possible by more than $4 million in supplemental GREAT grant funding through the COVID-19 Recovery Act.
The projects are expected to connect 3,074 households and 191 businesses, agricultural operations and community anchor institutions in Columbus, Duplin and Graham counties to high-speed internet. The COVID-19 Recovery Act allocated supplemental funding for eligible projects not initially funded through the GREAT Grant program.
"It's critical that we get more North Carolinians connected to high-speed internet, especially during this pandemic. For residents of these three counties, these projects will help them access work, education and healthcare within and beyond their communities,"
said Governor Cooper.
The news follows Governor Cooper's announcement earlier this month of more than $12 million in 2019-2020 GREAT grants and COVID-19 Recovery Act funding to expand broadband infrastructure. With the addition of these grants, a total of more than $16 million has been awarded this year to expand access in 11 Tier 1 counties across the state through the GREAT grant program and the supplemental funding.
The COVID-19 Recovery Act, recognizing the increased importance of broadband expansion in light of the pandemic, allocated supplemental funding for eligible projects not initially funded through the GREAT Grant program.
"As more and more of our day-to-day life, business and services have moved online to adapt to the pandemic, many North Carolinians are faced with the added challenge of not having access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet,"
Acting NCDIT Secretary and State Chief Information Officer Thomas Parrish said. "These grants will help lessen that disparity and bring the necessary infrastructure and connectivity to our communities and to thousands of residents who desperately need it."
Applicants are scored based on three criteria: 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. All awards are contingent on final executed grant agreements with these broadband provider partners.
Since the GREAT grant program launched in 2018, the state has invested nearly $26 million in 26 Tier 1 counties, connecting more than 21,000 households, businesses and agricultural operations to high-speed internet. The state funding has been matched by more than $20 million in private investment. The program will expand to include Tier 2 counties in the upcoming grant cycle.
- Contact: Ford Porter