Robeson County and Scotland County, NC – FOCUS Broadband announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded the cooperative a $24.6 million dollar grant which will allow the Shallotte-based company to expand high-speed internet access to over 4,800 addresses in rural Robeson and Scotland counties. The network will be able to connect more than 13,000 people, nearly 200 businesses, 166 farms and 18 public schools to high-speed internet in the two counties.
“The events of the last two years have shone a light on the need of all Americans to have access to affordable and reliable high-speed internet,” said USDA Rural Development North Carolina State Director, Reginald Speight. “This multi-million-dollar investment from the Biden-Harris Administration to FOCUS Broadband is allowing rural residents of our state to have the ability to take care of their family’s needs and educate their children, in their homes, and not have to go and seek out a wi-fi hot spot. A family choosing to live in the rural parts of our state should not preclude them from affordable services. This is a big win for rural North Carolina and FOCUS Broadband!”
The $26.4 million dollars in ReConnect grant funds awarded by the USDA will be used to bring fiber optic, high-speed internet to rural, underserved communities between Rowland, Raemon and Maxton and areas along Singletary Church Road in Robeson County as well as rural areas near Laurinburg, Wagram and Deercroft in Scotland County. Additionally, this project will serve parts of the Lumbee state designated tribal area and socially vulnerable communities in Scotland and Robeson counties. The new network will enable the delivery of high-speed internet of up to 1 Gigabit per second as well as telephone and home security and automation services.
“FOCUS Broadband is incredibly grateful to once again be a recipient of ReConnect funding from the USDA,” said Keith Holden, FOCUS Broadband CEO. “This grant will make a tremendous impact for residents and businesses in Robeson and Scotland counties that desperately need access to reliable, high-speed internet. We would like to thank the USDA, Congressman Bishop, the Lumbee Tribe, Robeson County Manager Kellie Blue and Scotland County Manager Kevin Patterson, and county commissioners from both Robeson and Scotland counties, and all the residents, business owners and community leaders who supported this application. Their support was vital in helping us win this grant funding.”
FOCUS Broadband has been serving rural North Carolinians for more than 65 years and has a great track record of using grant funds to provide high-speed internet to rural areas. Since 2019, FOCUS Broadband has secured more than $100 million from four federal grants through the USDA’s ReConnect Broadband and Community Connect Programs and 16 state grants through the NCDIT’s Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) grant program. With these grants, FOCUS Broadband is building a fiber optic network capable of providing multi-gigabit broadband internet to more than 30,000 homes and businesses in Brunswick, Columbus, Duplin, Robeson, Pender, Hoke, Scotland, Bladen, Chowan, and Perquimans counties. FOCUS Broadband will be contributing over $25 million in matching funds to complete these projects.
FOCUS Broadband began serving customers in Robeson County late last year through two state funded GREAT grants won by the company in 2020. Construction is on-going and is expected to be completed in 2023, but service is already available for many in the areas of Proctorville, Orrum and Fairmont. In December, FOCUS Broadband also received a $2.9 million USDA Community Connect Grant which will allow the company to bring fiber optic internet to the communities of Howellsville, Tolarsville and areas outside of St. Pauls. In August, the company won an additional $4 million GREAT grant for Robeson County that will allow it to expand high-speed internet service to more than 1,800 addresses near the communities of Parkton and Lumber Bridge.
With a project of this size, there is a great deal of preliminary work that must be done before actual construction can begin. FOCUS Broadband anticipates construction of the new fiber optic network to begin in 2023 after all necessary program paperwork and environmental studies have been completed. For more information about FOCUS Broadband’s progress on the ReConnect Grant, visit www.fasterrobeson.com or www.fasterscotland.com, or call 888-367-2862.