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Tyrrell residents’ survey may help expand rural internet access

By Mary-Alice Warren

‎Information Specialist

‎NC Dept. of Information Technology

Internet service providers and electric membership cooperatives can now apply for $32 million in pandemic relief grant funding to help bring high-speed internet access to rural North Carolina.

The General Assembly recently allocated more than $32 million for rural broadband expansion from the Coronavirus Relief Fund created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020.

The NC Department of Information Technology’s (NCDIT) Broadband Infrastructure Office (BIO) will review applications and assign the funding through the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) Grant program.

(And a survey of Tyrrell County residents, described below, may help allocate the funds where most needed.)

Applications for this 2020 Special Supplementary Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) Grant round will be accepted through Oct. 14.

Projects in Tier 1 and Tier 2 counties as well as rural census tracts located in Tier 3 areas currently being served by less than 25 megabytes per second download and 3 megabytes per second upload speeds are eligible for this 2020 Special Supplementary GREAT Grant round.

(Tyrrell is a Tier 1 (most economically distressed) county.

Since the GREAT grant program launched in 2018, the state has invested nearly $26 million in 26 Tier 1 counties, connecting more than 21,000 households, businesses and agricultural operations to high-speed internet. The state funding has been matched by more than $20 million in private investment.  The program will expand to include 98 counties for this upcoming grant cycle.

(Tyrrell is among the 98 eligible counties).

NCDIT’s Broadband Infrastructure Office is currently conducting a survey to gather better data on broadband availability and quality in the state. To learn more and to take the survey, visit ncbroadband.gov/survey.

To report locations without internet service, participants can take the survey by phone. Residents without internet service but with phones capable of text messaging can text “internet” to 919-750-0553. Standard text messaging rates will apply.

Residents with landlines or cellphones that do not have texting capability may place a voice call to 919-750-0553. An interactive voice response system will guide them through a series of short questions to obtain the caller’s address and register it in the database as having no internet capability at all.