Chatham receives state funding to improve broadband access

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Chatham County received state funding to improve broadband access for more than 1,900 homes through the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) grant program.

Last week, Governor Roy Cooper announced $206 million in public funding to improve broadband access across the state. The money is aimed at bringing high-speed internet to rural North Carolina counties, including Chatham. The county is eligible for up to $8 million in funding through the GREAT grant.

The GREAT program funds 85,000 households and 2,400 businesses that span 69 counties, including Chatham. This is the largest round of GREAT grants from the state yet, and more funding is expected to be announced in the fall.

According to County Executive Dan LaMontagne, Chatham County had six candidates, the second most of any county in the state. Last week’s announcement endorsed one such candidate – Connect Holding.

Connect Holding’s endorsement, also known as Brightspeed, connects 1,914 addresses to broadband services. Final maps and a list of addresses have yet to be shared.

“Chatham County certainly hopes to partner with internet service providers on future federal and state funding opportunities, as they become available,” LaMontagne told News+Record.

In its initial application, Connect Holding represented the largest number of addresses covered by the grants with 5,578 addresses in total, including more than 5,400 residential ones. No other candidate had more than 1,500 total addresses.

With last week’s announcement from Cooper, $260 million in GREAT grants have been awarded to vendors since July 2022.

“Broadband internet access is essential for people to work, learn, access telehealth and connect with each other,” Governor Cooper said in a news release about the announcement. “Thanks to this important GREAT grant, many more North Carolina families and small business owners will have the tools they need to succeed in today’s digital world.”

State’s latest GREAT grants follow previous funding awarded this summer, $23.4 million given on July 18 and the $30.8 million awarded August 1 total funding of $350 million for this round.

“We are thrilled to award this unprecedented funding to bring high-speed Internet access to so many residents and businesses across the state,” said Jim Weaver, Secretary of the Department of Information Technology. of North Carolina and state chief information officer. “These funds will go a long way in bridging the digital divide by providing equitable access to rural and urban communities.”

LaMontagne said he hopes Chatham County will receive two GREAT grants — meaning Chatham would receive up to $16 million of the $350 million available from the state under the GREAT program.

More grants are available for the county for broadband access. The Completing Broadband Access (CAB) grant program is expected to open soon. CAB offers individual counties in North Carolina the opportunity to partner with the state to fund broadband deployment projects in unserved areas of each county.

Journalist Ben Rappaport can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @b_rappaport

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