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Broadband in WNC GREAT Program NC BIO Rural

Application Window Open for $350M to Expand Internet Access in Rural NC

$350M GREAT Grant Round Opened

Gov. Roy Cooper announced on January 31st that applications for the latest round of GREAT Grants can be submitted through April 4 for up to $350 million of federal American Rescue Plan Act funding.

  • Awards can be made within eligible economically-distressed counties in areas unserved with broadband at speeds of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload.
  • Project deployments must provide minimum speeds of 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload, scalable to 100 Mbps symmetrical.
  • The program encourages partnerships with counties, nonprofits or other internet service providers.
  • Grants require matching investments from private broadband provider grantees, leveraging funding to deploy infrastructure to N.C. households, businesses and farms in the most rural and remote areas of the state.

Qualified internet service providers and electric membership cooperatives providing internet service can now apply for up to $350 million in grants to expand broadband infrastructure in North Carolina and get more people connected to high-speed internet. Funds from the federal American Rescue Plan are being used to provide the largest ever round of Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) Grants available in North Carolina.

“High-speed internet is critical for North Carolinians to be able to work, learn, run a business or access healthcare,” Governor Roy Cooper said. “We want all communities in our state to have these opportunities and this round of grants is an important step toward closing the digital divide, especially in rural areas.”

The grants are part of Governor Cooper’s plan to give 95% of North Carolina households access to broadband of 100/20 Mbps by expanding access and addressing issues of affordability and digital literacy.

Applications for the spring 2022 award period will be accepted through April 4. An information session for applicants will be held Feb. 10. Additional details can be found at

Administered by the N.C. Department of Information Technology’s (NCDIT) Division of Broadband and Digital Equity, the GREAT Grant program provides matching grants to broadband providers and electric membership cooperatives that compete for funding to expand access to high-speed internet service to unserved areas of all counties across the state.

“Since the GREAT Grant program launched in 2018, the state has invested nearly $56 million matched by more than $35 million from private investors to connect more than 40,000 households and businesses to broadband,” said NCDIT Secretary and State Chief Information Officer James Weaver. “We look forward to expanding those partnerships to extend high-speed internet access to more households in unserved areas.”

For more information about the NCDIT Division of Broadband and Digital Equity and the GREAT Grant program, please visit

Application Window Open for $350M to Expand Internet Access in Rural N.C. | Published 2022. Accessed February 6, 2022.

Advocacy Internet Service Provider Nutrition Labels

Nutrition Labels

FCC unanimously approves ‘nutrition labels’ for broadband services

Applaud the future of open and fairly presented broadband facts of the internet services being provided.

What are the facts of the internet services you pay for?

  • Expected range of download/upload speeds?
  • Latency or the time it takes for data to be transferred between its original source and its destination?
  • Hardware specifications?
  • Promotional details?
  • Monthly cost?

“Access to accurate, simple-to-understand information about broadband Internet access services helps consumers make informed choices and is central to a well-functioning marketplace”

Federal Communications Commission – FCC

Kelly, Makena. 2022. “FCC Unanimously Approves ‘Nutrition Labels’ for Broadband Services.” The Verge. The Verge. January 27, 2022.

Broadband in WNC Digital Divide Digital Literacy Library

Digital Divide 3s

The digital divide is simply the gap between those who have access to computers and the internet, and those who do not.

The term “digital divide” has moved into the mainstream, as the pandemic revealed how unforgiving life can be for those disconnected from the internet.

As Americans have been forced to work, learn, and socialize from home, many in rural and low-income communities have found getting and staying online a major challenge.

3’s of Digital Divide

Qualifying the digital divide can be with 3 criteria:

  1. Accessibility of smartphones and computers
  2. Affordability of service and the equipment
  3. Understanding the technology or digital literacy

3’s of Digital Literacy

Qualifying the digital literacy element of the digital divide can be with the degree of knowledge with these 3 primary keys:

  1. Checking email, writing in word processing tools
  2. Browsing the web effectively
  3. Online Security, privacy

Closing the Digital Divide in WNC

The accessibility of our digital world is conveniently here with the accessibility and use of smartphones. Although smartphones with their small screens are not ideal for digital communication, it works for most online needs in a mobile capacity.

For low-income, qualifying individuals; lower-cost internet or free-phones (see Assurance Lifeline Phones) and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) are available.

Digital literacy at the foundation is understanding how to consume and contribute content to one or more individuals. In Western North Carolina; community colleges, libraries, or community resources are part of the solution.

WNC Online Resources

Help your community steward digital literacy by supporting the WNC Broadband advocacy goals. 

Contact a member of our leadership team with any questions.

Nicol Turner Lee. 2022. “Can We Better Define What We Mean by Closing the Digital Divide?” Brookings. Brookings. January 11, 2022.

“Assurance Wireless to Participate in New Federal Affordable Connectivity Program ‑ T‑Mobile Newsroom.” 2021. T-Mobile Newsroom. 2021.

“Assurance Wireless.” 2021. 2021.

Broadband Bulldogs Digital Communication Information UNCA William Sederburg

Internet in Society

Stewarded by Dr. William Sederburg, Chair of the WNC Broadband Project; the WNC broadband leadership team has evolved a new community partner with the University of North Carolina at Asheville, in the Mass Communication Department; a new 2022 course titled Internet in Society.

“By definition, the Internet is a technical system: a communications infrastructure that enables networks around the globe to interconnect. It’s a network of networks.”

Broadband is the high capacity network of the internet.

Internet Society

Stay tuned for updates on the Broadband Bulldogs multimedia projects investigating broadband policies, digital red-lining, and the expanded need for high speed broadband due to Covid-19.

“How We See the Internet | Internet Society 2019 Global Internet Report.” 2019. Internet Society 2019 Global Internet Report. April 5, 2019.

Broadband Technology Information Internet Service Provider

Adapting Technology

How can a library respond directly and immediately to community needs?

COVID-19 has re-written how we interact among ourselves and our communities.

At the center of many communities is a library, a building or room containing collections of books, periodicals, and sometimes technology resources for people to use or borrow.

How can the capacity of a library better respond directly and immediately to community needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic?

An ‘Adapting Technology’ program would allow for libraries to improve library operations through the purchase of technology that supports the efforts for libraries to reach residents, especially in support of education, health, and workforce development needs; and/or to respond to the pandemic and implement public health protocols.

Do you desire for your community library to become more adaptive with technology?

Please email with your ideas.

Note: Marc also provides mobile hotspots at the NCWorks Career Center of Asheville to make broadband available for those needing online access to workforce development tools.

“Adapting Technology | SLNC.” 2021. December 31, 2021.

Broadband access Digital Divide Low-income Access NCWorks Career Center Asheville

Lifelong Opportunities with Access to the Internet

As individuals in our society today, how do we learn and gain meaningful employment throughout our life? Using a smartphone; Ok Google…, Heh Siri…, and Alexa are now ubiquitous tools to verbally search our questions and learn from internet content and Google is king of webpage searches.

No Internet – No Learning or Less Opportunity?

What happens when high-speed internet isn’t available due to home availability or cost?

What is the correlation to being able to easily inquire with a web search and get answers or opportunities?

Digital Divide

The digital divide is defined as the gap between those who have ready access to computers and the internet, and those who do not.

Because the internet is critical for employment processes including online applications, job research, and job education; thanks to NCWorks Career Center of Asheville at 48 Grove Street, Land-Of-Sky Regional Council of Governments, and the WNC Broadband project are providing 30-day hotspot loaners.

To schedule an appointment to reserve a unit and receive training through the Digital Literacy Network, please contact Marc at NCWorks Asheville:

  • 828-365-8299

Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)

Assistance for internet expenses is also available through the Affordable Connectivity Program. It is an FCC benefit program that helps ensure that households can afford the broadband they need for work, school, healthcare and more.

More at:

Buncombe County Library Laptop and Hotspot Loaner Program

Buncombe County Public Libraries (BCPL), also in partnership with Land of Sky Regional Council has the Library Laptop Loan Program, as many in our community rely on their local library for internet connectivity.

Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Report

Access Broadband Report

National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) -United States Department of Commerce

The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) recently released the first ACCESS BROADBAND Report, which highlights the accomplishments of NTIA’s recently established Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth (OICG) over the past year. The report, mandated by the ACCESS BROADBAND Act as part of the Consolidated Appropriation Act of 2021, also covers investments in federal broadband support programs and Universal Service Fund (USF) programs.

“Our newly published ACCESS BROADBAND Report is an important addition to our coordinated approach to expand broadband access while promoting government transparency and efficient data collection.

The Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth is home to decades of experience in broadband and is a key leader in our efforts to close the digital divide and improve reporting on federal investments.”

Acting NTIA Administrator Evelyn Remaley

President Biden’s recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $65 billion to expand broadband in communities across the U.S. About $48 billion is allocated to NTIA to create more low-cost broadband service options, subsidize the cost of service for low-income households, and address the digital equity and inclusion needs in our communities. These funds build upon three programs established by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 for which NTIA is currently in the process of reviewing applications and making awards: the Broadband Infrastructure Program, the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP), and the Connecting Minority Communities (CMC) Pilot Program.

The ACCESS BROADBAND Report is part of NTIA’s continued effort to improve availability of broadband-related data, enhance coordination across federal partners, and enable transparency in government spending. It was developed in coordination with 13 federal agencies comprising 55 total programs.

“Understanding and measuring the breadth and depth of Federal government’s broadband investments is critical to create an efficient and equitable distribution of resources. Our newly published ACCESS BROADBAND Report proves we are well equipped to bring agencies together to improve availability of broadband-related data.

With the report findings, we are better equipped to work with our federal partners to coordinate our data collection and reporting efforts and foster transparency in federal broadband spending.”

Doug Kinkoph, Associate Administrator of the Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth

The report summarizes the federal broadband investment landscape, outlines the current state of measuring investments and connection across federal broadband support and USF programs, and provides key recommendations to improve efforts to track broadband spending and outcomes. These recommendations include: promoting consistency across programs; leveraging open data initiatives; and identifying data sources and alternatives.

Visit NTIA’s website to view the full report.

Department of Commerce’s NTIA Publishes First ACCESS BROADBAND Report | Connected Nation. Published 2020. Accessed January 4, 2022.