RALEIGH – North Carolina is looking to boost Internet speeds in 19 rural counties with nearly $10 million in matching grants.

The grants are to assist 14 companies improve broadband for some 10,000 households plus almost 600 businesses and community institutions.

Fourteen companies will receive the grants, 11 of them being based in North Carolina. According to the statement, the companies are a mix of small businesses, telephone cooperatives plus an electric membership cooperative.

North Carolina does have a big broadband access problem,

“The most current map of broadband availability in North Carolina shows that 93.7 percent of North Carolina households have access to broadband. This implies that most North Carolina households should be able to effortlessly connect to the internet and without too much waiting or delay: run a small business, stream video, complete homework assignments, communicate with friends and family and play video games,” wrote Jeffrey Sural, Director of the Broadband Infrastructure Office at the North Carolina Department of Information Technology, in a blog post for WRAL TechWire in Feb.

“But interactions with citizens from all parts of the state have led our office to believe this figure—93.7 percent—is wildly inaccurate.”

The grants are part of the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) . The matching grants went to “Internet service providers and electric membership cooperatives that compete for funding to lower financial barriers that prevent high speed internet service expansion in Tier 1 [identified as economically distressed] counties,” according to Gov. Roy Cooper and the NC Department of Information Technology as well as its Broadband Infrastructure Office.

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“Access to reliable, high-speed internet service is critical for businesses to grow, students to learn, and communities to thrive,” Cooper said in announcing the funding. “These grants will help connect thousands of homes and businesses with opportunities across the state and around the world.”

The program notes that eligible areas for grants “are census blocks or portions of census blocks in Tier One counties that lack access to a service providing a minimum of 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Megabit per second upload speeds. The state classifies the 40 most economically distressed counties in the state as Tier One counties.”

Grants went to:

County,  Applicant/Provider

  • Bertie, Roanoke Connect Holdings
  • Bladen, Star Telephone Membership Corp
  • Caswell, Open Broadband, LLC
  • Chowan, JCMM Ventures
  • Clay, Frontier Communications
  • Columbus, Atlantic Membership Telephone Corp
  • Gates, Roanoke Connect Holdings
  • Greene, CenturyLink/Carolina Telephone & Telegraph and NfinityLink
  • Halifax, Olsen enterprises dba Cloudwyze
  • Hertford,  Roanoke Connect Holdings
  • Jackson, Sky-Fi Inc.
  • Jones, Eastern Carolina Broadband
  • Lenoir, CenturyLink/Carolina Telephone & Telegraph and Eastern Carolina Broadband
  • Macon, Morris Broadband/Shivers Communications Corp
  • McDowell, Morris Broadband/Shivers Communications Corp
  • Northampton, Roanoke Connect Holdings
  • Person, North Carolina Wireless
  • Swain, Sky Wave, Inc.
  • Vance, Open Broadband, LLC

The problem (and the solution) with mapping broadband in North Carolina