Raleigh, NC – Members of the North Carolina Broadband Cooperative Coalition (CarolinaLink) continue their work to bring high-speed internet to rural areas of the state by applying for more than $89 million dollars in federal funding through the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) ReConnect Broadband Program.
Through this funding program, the USDA is making available over $1.15 billion in funds available through loans, grants, and loan/grant combinations to build high speed internet service into rural, socially vulnerable, and tribal communities.
Five of the seven CarolinaLink broadband companies submitted applications either through the cooperative or a subsidiary in the USDA’s ReConnect Program in hopes to serve more than 13,000 households in rural counties across North Carolina. FOCUS Broadband (formerly ATMC) applied for $24.6 million to serve more than 4,000 homes in Robeson and Scotland counties. Randolph Communications applied for $3.8 million to serve nearly 500 homes in Chatham and Moore counties. RiverSteet Networks applied for $12.8 million to serve 2,000 homes in Polk, Henderson and Richmond counties. Star Communications applied for $28.3 million to serve 2,700 homes in Bladen and Sampson counties, and Zirrus (formerly Yadtel) applied for $19.5 million in funding to bring high-speed internet to nearly 4,000 homes in Yadkin County.
“Our coalition is committed to broadband expansion in rural areas across North Carolina,” commented Dwight Allen, Executive Vice President of CarolinaLink. “If our member companies are able to secure these grants, over 36,000 rural North Carolinians will be able to better connect to education, business, healthcare and entertainment through access to fiber optic high-speed internet from one of our member cooperatives.”
As part of the grant program, some of the grants require the applicant to commit a contribution of matching funds up to 25% of the total cost of the project. For the grants submitted by CarolinaLink members, the amount of matching investment would top $16.7 million bringing total investment in broadband infrastructure to $106 million. Grant applications were submitted by March 9th for review and the USDA plans to announce winners later this year.
This is the third year the USDA has offered funding through the ReConnect Broadband Program. The first two rounds were held in 2019 and 2020, and in those years CarolinaLink members collectively won almost $58 million in federal grant dollars and made an additional $24.6 million in matching investments.
CarolinaLink members currently serve over 150,000 rural homes and businesses in North Carolina and are committed to expanding rural broadband to unserved and underserved communities throughout the state. CarolinaLink members serve residents and businesses in thirty counties throughout the state and employee more than 1,000 North Carolinians.
For more information about CarolinaLink and their members, visit www.carolinalink.org.