SPECIAL TO THE ONE FEATHER
RALEIGH – Better internet is coming to Jackson and Swain Counties. On Wednesday, May 8, Governor Roy Cooper announced $10 million in broadband infrastructure grants for 19 rural counties, including $233,645 for Jackson County and $179,153 for Swain County.
“Access to reliable, high-speed internet service is critical for businesses to grow, students to learn, and communities to thrive,” said Governor Roy Cooper. “These grants will help connect thousands of homes and businesses with opportunities across the state and around the world.”
The two grants awarded in Swain and Jackson Counties are expected to bring high-speed internet service to more than 900 homes.
“Everywhere we have electricity, we should have high-speed internet service,” said North Carolina Representative Joe Sam Queen, chair of the House Broadband Workgroup. “These grants are a great step forward toward that goal.”
The Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) program matches internet service provider funding, lowering the financial barriers that prevent broadband expansion into rural North Carolina. Governor Cooper’s latest budget would triple the funding for this program in addition to a $35 million investment in broadband expansion and $5 million earmarked to close the homework gap.
“The first round of GREAT Grants are only for Tier 1 counties. Many of us are working hard in the legislature to expand these grants to Tier 2 and 3 counties, so Haywood County can be included as well,” said Representative Queen. “There are plenty of underserved areas in Haywood County and other Tier 2 and 3 Counties that need these funds.”
Secretary of the Department of Information Technology Eric Boyette said, “Too many communities across the state lack broadband speeds that are critical to doing homework, applying for a job, or seeing a doctor without leaving home. Rural parts of the state are the most dramatically affected by this digital divide. The GREAT Grant program is one way our state is tackling this problem.”