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$23M in grants awarded to expand N.C. internet access in 12 counties; $5 million in WNC

Nearly 7,000 households and 374 businesses in 12 N.C. counties are set to receive high-speed internet thanks to more than $23.4 million in grants, Governor Roy Cooper announced today. The N.C. Department of Information Technology’s (NCDIT) Broadband Infrastructure Office has awarded Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) grants to expand broadband infrastructure in the following counties:

  • Alexander County: Yadkin Valley TMC (Yadtel | Zirrus)
  • Avery County: Spectrum Southeast, LLC
  • Bertie County: Spectrum Southeast, LLC
  • Chowan County: ATMC (Focus Broadband)
  • Clay County: Blue Ridge Mountain EMC
  • Cleveland County: Spectrum Southeast, LLC
  • Davidson County: Yadkin Valley TMC (Yadtel | Zirrus)
  • Gaston County: Spectrum Southeast, LLC
  • Hyde County: Connect Holding II LLC (Brightspeed)
  • Lincoln County: Spectrum Southeast, LLC
  • New Hanover County: Spectrum Southeast, LLC
  • Stanly County: Windstream North Carolina, LLC

“Reliable and affordable high-speed internet is a necessity for all North Carolinians to work, learn, connect and access online health care,” Governor Cooper said. “These GREAT grants awards will help thousands more North Carolina families and businesses across the state access high-speed internet and the opportunities it brings.”

The grants are part of Governor Cooper’s plan to invest nearly $2 billion in federal and state funds to close the digital divide in North Carolina. The GREAT program provides matching grants to internet service providers and electric membership cooperatives that partner with individual N.C. counties to compete for funding to expand high-speed internet service to unserved areas of the state.

“These awards signify the state’s commitment to partnering with internet service providers and counties to ensure North Carolina homes and businesses can participate in the digital economy,” said NCDIT Secretary and State Chief Information Officer James Weaver. “We are awarding GREAT grants on a rolling basis throughout July and August to expedite the distribution of all these critical funds.”

Senator Kevin Corbin noted that there is still money in the fund for providers to apply for to expand and improve internet in rural areas.

“We just appropriated over $900 million strictly for rural internet hookups,” said Senator Corbin. “To date over 50 perfect of the money is still on the table for the asking. It has to be done by the providers. In every single case where there had been an application submitted, I have written a letter of support and the grants are being funded as planned.”

Senator Corbin noted that specifically for Clay County, his office wrote a letter of support for Blue Ridge Mountain EMC for the $5 million grant they will receive to connect 2,000 customers in very rural parts of Clay County.

“They will all be hooked up in less than 24 months,” said Sen. Corbin. “Applications are being approved every week and I am doing everything possible to get the grants out west. So far we a getting more than our fair share and continue to do so because companies are continuing to apply. That is the process. You need to contact your county commissioners and local provider to push them to apply for the money that is literally laying on the table.”

NCDIT received 305 applications for this $350 million round of GREAT grants, and internet service providers submitted proposals for projects that would serve more than 487,000 N.C. homes and businesses. To be eligible for a grant, all internet service provider applicants must participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides eligible low-income households a $30 per month discount on high-speed internet service, or provide access to a comparable low-cost program. Learn more about the ACP and how to get $30 per month reliable, high-speed internet packages offered by internet service providers at getinternet.gov.

Applications 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 must agree to provide high-speed service, defined as a minimum of 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 20 Mbps upload, scalable to 100 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload on or before Dec. 31, 2026. All awards are contingent on final executed grant agreements with these broadband provider partners.

For more information about the NCDIT Division of Broadband and Digital Equity, please visit https://www.ncbroadband.gov/.

 

Fast Facts about NC GREAT Grant Program

  • GREAT stands for -Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology
  • NC Launched the GREAT Grant Program in 2018
  • Qualified internet service providers and electric membership cooperatives providing internet service are eligible to apply
  • The grants are part of Governor Cooper’s plan to give 95% of North Carolina households access to broadband of 100/20 Mbps by expanding access and addressing issues of affordability and digital literacy.
  • NC’s GREAT Grant program is administered by the NC Department f Information Technology Division of Broadband and Digital Equality.
  • The GREAT Grant program provides matching grants to broadband providers and electric membership cooperatives that compete for funding to expand access to high-speed internet service to unserved areas of all counties across the state.
  • Since the GREAT Grant program launched in 2018, the state has invested nearly $56 million matched by more than $35 million from private investors to connect more than 40,000 households and businesses to broadband.
  • Awards are based on data submitted by broadband providers. Specifically, in 2019 round 1 award locations were based on either census block or polygon area submittals; in 2020 round 2 award locations were based on parcel or polygon area submittals; and finally, in late 2020 and early 2021, round 3 award locations were based on either addresses or parcel area submittals.
  • The grants help bring high-speed internet to thousands of North Carolinians, businesses and farms in the most rural and remote areas of the state. These areas include both Tier 1 and Tier 2 counties as well as rural census tracts located in development Tier 3 areas that are currently served by less than 25 megabytes per second download and 3 megabytes per second upload speeds
  • The first round of GREAT Grants were awarded in 2019. For WNC the following counties have been awarded GREAT Grants based on private providers applying for the funds: Cherokee – CND, Clay-Blue Ridge EMC, Graham- Zito Media, Graham-Skywave, Macon-Morris Broadband, Swain-Skywave (2), Jackson-Sky-Fi, Transylvania-Citizens Telephone, and Buncombe-French Broad EMC.

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