North Carolina spends $206 million on broadband

Gov. Roy Cooper (Flickr / NC Dept of Public Safety)

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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Wednesday announced $206 million in state grants to expand internet access in rural communities across the state.

The new funding, which was made available through North Carolina’s Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology, or GREAT, grants program, is expected to bring high-speed internet to nearly 85,000 households and more than 2,400 businesses. The announcement is the latest in a string of investments by states designed to close the connectivity gaps in their communities.

In a press release Cooper said high-speed internet is “critical” for work, education, health and social interaction. 

“Thanks to this significant GREAT grant award funding, many more North Carolina families and small business owners will have the tools they need to succeed in today’s digital world,” he said.

North Carolina’s GREAT grants are designed to bring broadband internet connections to “economically distressed” counties, according to the program’s website. This round of funding is expected to bring new connections to 69 counties via new infrastructure built by private providers.

The grant program provides matching funds to private internet providers so that communities can get connected “as quickly as possible,” according to the state. To accept funding service providers are required to participate in the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides low-income households discount rates.

The companies receiving the $206 million include AT&T, Charter Communications, Connect Holding, Lumos, Optimum and others. The new funding follows $23.4 million in GREAT grants awarded in July and $30.8 million awarded in August.

North Carolina also isn’t alone in building out broadband infrastructure. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Wednesday announced Louisiana was the first state to receive an award through the federal “Internet for All” program. And the NTIA on Tuesday announced it’s awarded $634 million to tribal governments.

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