‘ Cooper announces $200 million investment for equitable access to broadband internet in NC :: WRAL.com

— On Wednesday, Governor Cooper announced a $200 million investment to bring internet to North Carolinians in need.

More than a million people in North Carolina don’t have access to high speed internet, and the investment would fund 69 counties — bringing broadband to nearly 85,000 households and more than 2,400 businesses across the state. The funding is coming from the American Rescue Plan Act.

“This is a big day,” said Cooper.

Alamance County, where he held his press conference, is getting an investment of $3 million, meeting 730 households.

Cooper emphasized the immense value of high speed internet for providing equal access to education and healthcare, pointing out that this plan will help bridge the digital divide in North Carolina. He said remote telemedicine has exploded as a more cost-effective form of healthcare. Likewise, he said broadband will give students easier access to remote learning and general education.

“High-speed internet access is critical for people to work, learn, access telehealth and connect with one another,” said Cooper.

Businesses and residents, particularly in rural or lower income areas, have historically not had equitable access to high speed internet. While many take internet access for granted, some still have to visit public libraries just to get online.

“More than a million North Carolina households are on the wrong side of the digital divide,” said Nate Denny, the NC Deputy Secretary of the Department of Information Technology.

Denny said his department is making sure the broadband internet rollout is being done fairly.

“If anything good came out of the pandemic, it’s that it has shone a light on challenges the state already faces,” said Cooper.

The CEO of Lumos, the company that will provide broadband internet access in Alamance and Randolph counties, says it’s all about changing people’s lives. The GREAT grants will also expand broadband infrastructure in the Triangle area, including Wake, Durham and Johnston counties. The full list of impacted counties can be found here.

Cooper said providing high speed internet access is something he’s been wanting to do for the state, but they haven’t had the resources – until now.

“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,” said Cooper.

So when can these counties expect broadband internet to arrive? State officials told WRAL News the funding requires the internet to be up and running within two years of getting the money.

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