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Tyrrell may benefit from rural broadband funding

The North Carolina General Assembly recently appropriated $10 million to encourage expansion of high-speed internet access that could help Tyrrell County’s economy, education and health care systems.

The matching state grants would create public-private partnerships to install broadband fiber throughout the Tar Heel State.

Broadband is seen as essential to boosting the rural economy, writes Taylor Knopf of North Carolina Health News. It’s also seen as a way to close the “homework gap” for the kids. Every school in North Carolina has broadband, but students don’t always have the connectivity at home to complete school assignments.

First responders have pleaded for broadband to better protect their communities. And broadband access would also help connect medical providers and their patients through telemedicine.

North Carolina’s rural areas still have wide expanses where there’s little or no connectivity. Mainland Dare and huge chunks Hyde and Tyrrell counties are “white spaces” on NC broadband maps.

North Carolina is among the first handful of states to establish a rural broadband grant program, Knopf states. Minnesota is seen as one of the leading states with a $20 million broadband grant program.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, 640,000 people in rural Tar Heel counties do not have access to broadband.

The two major barriers to installing broadband are the cost of construction and population density, the N.C. Office of Broadband Infrastructure (BIO) says.

Broadband runs through cables that are underground or attached to aboveground poles. Burying these lines is estimated to cost between $20,000 to $50,000 per mile, according to BIO. Attaching lines to poles owned by telephone or electric companies costs between $1,500 to $10,000 per mile.

Like electricity, telephone, water and sewer before it, broadband expansion is likely to move out slowly from the most populated areas into those with few inhabitants. Folks in such outlying Tyrrell communities as Frying Pan, Goat Neck, Kilkenny, and South Fork know well that “patience is a virtue.”