Broadband internet access expanding in Beaufort County

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, November 2, 2022

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Starting this fall, about 1,070 homes and businesses in Beaufort County will have access to broadband high speed internet access thanks to a partnership between county government and BrightSpeed.

The pair submitted an application to the GREAT (Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology) grant program which is given through the NC Department of Information Technology. The program will bring in $4 million to expand broadband internet access. The county is pitching in an additional $500,000 of its own American Rescue Plan Act funding. 

According to Governor Roy Cooper’s office, there were 305 applications this summer. Applications were scored based on the number of households and businesses service providers proposed to serve, the average cost to serve those locations and the speeds offered. 

In order to receive GREAT grant funding, BrightSpeed will participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program. A monthly discount of $30 is given to low-income households for high speed internet access (a minimum of 100 megabits per second download and 20 megabits per second upload) or access to a comparable low cost program, according to the county government. 

In August, Governor Cooper’s office announced nearly 85,000 households and more than 2,400 businesses in 69 counties would receive a piece of a total $206 million in statewide GREAT grant funding. Since July 2022, more than $260 million in GREAT grants have been awarded to internet service providers. 

We are excited to be awarding this unprecedented amount of funding to bring high-speed internet access to such a large number of residents and businesses across the state,” NCDIT Secretary and State Chief Information Officer Jim Weaver said in a press release. “These funds will go a long way in closing the digital divide by bringing equitable access to both rural and urban communities.”

County Manager, Brian Alligood, emailed a comment to the Daily News, saying, “Beaufort County is pleased to partner with BrightSpeed to provide fiber broadband to the home in specific areas of the County and looks forward to upcoming grant opportunities for additional fiber access.  Federal and State grant programs to provide fiber broadband in Beaufort County will create a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve education, healthcare, economic development and quality of life.