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Grants Awarded For High Speed Internet To Benefit Hickory Metro Counties

Governor Roy Cooper announced Wednesday (August 31) that nearly 85,000 households and more than 2,400 businesses in 69 counties, including three in the Hickory Metro, are set to receive access to high-speed internet thanks to more than $206 million of Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) grants. This is the state’s largest round of GREAT grant awards to date. With this announcement, over $260 million in GREAT grants have been awarded to providers since July 2022. Additional grants are expected to be announced this fall.

The N.C. Department of Information Technology’s (NCDIT) Broadband Infrastructure Office, part of the Division of Broadband and Digital Equity, awarded GREAT grants to expand broadband infrastructure to the following internet service providers. Catawba, Burke, and Caldwell Counties will all receive service from Connect Holding II LLC.

The Governor made the funding announcement Wednesday at the Mebane Public Library alongside NCDIT Deputy Secretary for Broadband and Digital Equity Nate Denny and Lumos CEO Brian Stading. The GREAT grant program provides matching grants to internet service providers and electric membership cooperatives that may partner with individual counties to compete for funding to expand high-speed internet service to unserved and underserved areas of the state. The GREAT grant awards are in addition to the $23.4 million awarded on July 18 and the $30.8 million awarded on August 1 of the $350 million total funding for this round.

As part of the GREAT grant eligibility requirements, all internet service provider applicants must be participating in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides eligible low-income households a $30 per month discount on high-speed internet service or provide access to a comparable low-cost program.

NCDIT received 305 applications for this round of GREAT grants, and internet service providers proposed to serve more than 487,000 North Carolina homes and businesses. Applications were scored based on the number of households and businesses they propose to serve, the average cost to serve those locations, and the speeds offered. Applicants must agree to provide high-speed service, defined as a minimum of 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 20 Mbps upload, scalable to 100 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload on or before December 31, 2026. All awards are contingent on final executed grant agreements with broadband provider partners.