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RALEIGH  The Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) announces a new investment from Corning Incorporated to extend digital inclusion grants to communities across North Carolina. The $10,000 contribution will support BAND-NC, a grant program designed to increase the number of North Carolinians with internet in their homes, with the goal of making the state “first in digital inclusion.”

Building a New Digital Economy in NC (BAND-NC), in partnership with the NC Broadband Infrastructure Office (BIO), has supported 29 $5,000 “rapid response community innovation grants” covering 39 counties since the program’s inception, plus a series of workshops led by IEI and BIO to help communities develop digital inclusion plans. Another 30 “implementation” grants of $5,000 each will be awarded in 2021.

“As we move forward through the pandemic, communities are developing creative strategies to get broadband access to those who need it most,” said IEI director Leslie Boney. “This funding from Corning will build on that work, helping set the stage for long-term broadband fixes that make education, work and health care from home possible.”

“Corning is delighted to support initiatives aimed at closing the Digital Divide, because we believe a broadband connection is as essential as electricity, water and gas,” said Michael Bell, senior vice president and general manager of Corning’s Optical Communications business. “We’re especially proud to join BAND-NC in its work to advance digital inclusion in North Carolina — where Corning’s highly skilled workforce manufactures the optical fiber and cable that bring broadband connections to life.”

IEI announced BAND-NC at its Emerging Issues Forum, ReCONNECT to Technological Opportunity, in February 2020. The program outlined four challenges communities have in including all families in broadband services:

  • Access—getting broadband into homes
  • Subscriptions—helping families afford broadband services. In all, just 59% of North Carolina families subscribe to broadband services
  • Devices—ensuring that children and adults have the equipment they need to take classes, work from home, or access health care
  • Technical assistance—assisting families in learning how to effectively use high-speed access BAND-NC asks communities to develop solutions that address each of these issues. Data from the NC Broadband Infrastructure Office shows wide disparities in adoption of broadband services, with both a rural-urban and an income divide. The ultimate goal of the program is to make North Carolina the first state in the nationwhere every county has a digital inclusion plan in place.

As part of the BAND-NC effort, IEI has already partnered with the North Carolina Broadband Infrastructure Office, the NC Electric Cooperatives, Roanoke Electric Cooperative, the Duke Energy Foundation, John M. Belk Endowment, and ATMC.

To learn more and apply you can visit iei.ncsu.edu/band-nc