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NASHVILLE — People living and working in Nash County will get expanded high-speed internet service thanks to the Growing Rural Economies with Access To Technology program.
The N.C. Department of Information Technology and its Broadband Infrastructure Office announced 2019-20 GREAT grant awards on Aug. 18, with Nash County scoring nearly three quarters of a million dollars.
Nash County broadband provider CloudWyze will receive the $818,000 to connect 305 households and 14 businesses with fixed wireless internet access. Statewide, the GREAT grants for 2019-20 are expected to connect 8,017 families and 254 businesses, farms and community institutions to high-speed internet across North Carolina.
“With this pandemic, high-speed internet access is even more important for remote education, telemedicine and small businesses. These projects will help bridge the digital divide in 11 rural counties, so these communities can access important services and participate in our increasingly digital society and economy,” Gov. Roy Cooper said through spokesman Ford Porter.
State Rep. Lisa Barnes, R-Nash, said internet infrastructure is more important that ever before, especially since Cooper’s executive orders shut down businesses and limited public schools’ ability to offer in-person instruction in an effort to slow the pandemic.
“Since the governor shut down many schools, businesses and workplaces, broadband access has become critical to our rural communities’ ability to work, learn and receive health care from home,” Barnes said. “I use my broadband access at home to remotely connect with colleagues in the North Carolina General Assembly and run our family farm — I understand firsthand the difference this makes in our rural communities.”
Passed in 2018, 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 Tier 1 counties. The GREAT grant program previously awarded nearly $10 million for 20 projects in 18 Tier 1 counties to connect more than 10,000 households, businesses and agricultural operations. The program will expand to include Tier 2 counties in the upcoming grant cycle.
Eleven providers and cooperatives were awarded $10,244,195 for projects in 11 counties, connecting 6,860 households and 243 businesses, agricultural operations and community anchor institutions to broadband.
CloudWyze also received grant funding to offer broadband service in Edgecombe and Martin 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. All awards are contingent on final executed grant agreements with these broadband provider partners.