Today, Governor Roy Cooper announced that North Carolina internet service provider Star Telephone Membership Corporation will receive $24.9 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to connect rural residents, businesses and farmers in Bladen, Columbus and Sampson counties to reliable, affordable high-speed internet.
The ReConnect Program grant, funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will benefit 2,674 people, 84 businesses, 117 farms and four educational facilities in these counties. In June, North Carolina was awarded more than $1.5 billion to fund high-speed internet infrastructure and build digital equity under the federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program, also through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
“This funding, combined with the BEAD allocation our state has already received, will go a long way in helping us close the digital divide in North Carolina and ensuring everyone has access to high-speed internet,” said Governor Cooper. “We thank our federal partners for their continued investment in our state as we work diligently to connect all our communities.”
Applicants for ReConnect Program funding must serve a rural area that lacks access to service at speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 20 Mbps upload. They must also commit to building facilities capable of providing high-speed internet service with speeds of 100 Mbps (download and upload) to every location in the proposed service area. In addition, all awardees will be required to participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program, which offers a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service to qualifying low-income households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal Lands.
Under Governor Cooper’s leadership, North Carolina is pursuing comprehensive efforts to ensure all North Carolinians not only have access to high-speed internet but can also afford it and know how to safely use it. Governor Cooper has also prioritized a major expansion of high-speed internet that can bring telehealth to areas that lack in-person medical providers, including over $340 million in GREAT grants that have been awarded to bring high-speed internet to 139,599 households and 4,447 businesses across the state.
To learn more about this work and Governor Cooper’s plan to close the state’s digital divide, visit ncbroadband.gov.