RALEIGH – Due to challenges made across North Carolina to the FCC broadband access map, the number of household and business locations that lack high-speed access surged more than 20% in 2023 data released by the state on Thursday.

The number of so-called “underserved” locations reporting access to the internet at speeds under 25 megabits per second – 374,412, up from 253,409 – is the largest in the country, according to the state’s broadband office. 

The FCC defines broadband access at being above 25 mbps.

However, the number of locations reporting interest access at less that 100 mbbs fell sharply to 127,956 from 296,998 in the previous update.

The news came just hours ahead of a significant grant ($11 million) to MCNC, which operates a state-wide fiber-optic broadband network as part of the federal government’s efforts to expand high-speed internet access.

The numbers are important, says the N.C. Department of Information Technology’s Division of Broadband and Digital Equity, since such data is utilized in selections for grants and other funding.

“[N]early 43,000 challenges to the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Map aided in surfacing 115,000 additional North Carolina homes and businesses that do not have access to high-speed internet, more than any other state in the country,” the state broadband office said.

“The map corrections will affect the eligibility of locations for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program for future broadband deployments, impact the state’s BEAD funding allocation, and guide Governor Roy Cooper’s plan to connect every North Carolinian to high-speed internet,” it added.

Two maps show where broadband access is lacking based on June 2022 and December 2022 data:

Figure 1: FCC Broadband Data Collection – June 2022 Data

FCC Broadband Data Collection – June 2022 Data

Figure 2: FCC Broadband Data Collection – December 2022 Data with Successful Challenges

FCC Broadband Data Collection – December 2022 Data with Successful Challenges

“This granular location data for unserved and underserved households and businesses will help the state strategically invest federal resources to expand broadband infrastructure to all North Carolinians,” said NCDIT Secretary and State Chief Information Officer Jim Weaver in the announcement.

Do you not have broadband access? How to report it:

NCDIT encourages all residents and businesses in the state to continue contributing to the state’s mapping efforts by sharing data about their high-speed internet availability and speeds via the N.C. Broadband Survey at www.ncbroadband.gov/survey. To report locations without internet service, participants can text “internet” to 919-750-0553. Standard text messaging rates will apply. Residents with landlines or cellphones that do not have texting capability may place a voice call to 919-750-0553.

Source: NCDIT