RALEIGH – Thousands of homes in three eastern N.C. counties will gain access to fiber-optic internet with a nearly $25 million federal grant.

Star Telephone Membership Corporation is the recipient of $24.9 million in federal funding to bring fiber access to more than 2,600 homes plus more than 80 businesses, some 117 farms and educational facilities across Bladen, Columbus and Sampson counties.

The grant is part of some $700 million in funding announced Monday as part of the ReConnect Program, which is funded by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“This Rural Development investment will be used to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to provide highspeed internet,” the US Department of Agriculture explained.  “This network will benefit 2,674 people, 84 businesses, 117 farms and four educational facilities in Bladen, Columbus and Sampson counties in North Carolina. Star Telephone Membership Corporation will make high-speed internet affordable by participating in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Programs. This project will serve socially vulnerable communities in Bladen, Columbus and Sampson counties.”

North Carolina lands $1.5 billion in federal broadband infrastructure funding

The grant is the latest in a series of federal and state grants intended to expand high-speed internet across underserved counties across the state.

Grants announced Monday also include projects in Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico,Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and the Marshall Islands.

“Keeping the people of rural America connected with reliable, high-speed internet brings new and innovative ideas to the rest of our country and creates good-paying jobs along the way,” Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “Thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are connecting rural communities to a global marketplace. These investments will support economic growth and prosperity for generations to come.”

full list of projects is available online.