‘It’s a necessity’: Organizations work to get broadband access to rural communities

‘It’s a necessity’: Organizations work to get broadband access to rural communities
Published: Aug. 31, 2022 at 7:05 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Efforts to bring internet access to all of Eastern Carolina have been underway for years.

“We know that in the 21st century, broadband is foundational,” Patrick Woodie, NC Rural Center president said.

However, broadband is a foundation that not everyone has, especially in rural parts of Eastern Carolina.

“We’ve got about 1.2 million people on the wrong side of the digital divide,” Gov. Roy Cooper said.

Cooper announced on Wednesday that $206 million in grant funding would go toward expanding access for 69 counties in the state, including Beaufort, Onslow, and Pitt counties.

“Now we actually have the funds to connect everybody in North Carolina with high-speed internet access, and that is something to celebrate,” Cooper added.

The money will come from GREAT grants, which stands for Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology.

Woodie knows the importance of quick internet connection and is working closely with more than a dozen counties in northeastern Carolina, including Martin.

“Martin is... a great example of a county that has parts of the county that are not well-served. We’ve been there trying to facilitate conversations between the board of county commissioners and internet service providers so that those ISPs turn around and submit their applications for funding to serve the citizens of Martin County,” Woodie said.

Michael Ervin, Albemarle Commission executive director, says broadband is just like electricity. “It’s no longer a luxury. It’s a necessity.”

Ervin worked with Hyde County, among others, who were recipients of past GREAT grants. He says that establishing the connection to high-speed internet in those counties is only the beginning of meeting their needs.

“It doesn’t just stop with dropping the broadband services at someone’s house. We’ve got to educate the individuals on how to use it and how to use it properly,” Ervin said.

Those service providers have to finish their projects by Dec. 31, 2026 in order to get the grant money.

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