Governor Cooper announces federal funding to expand access to affordable internet
By Jordan Monaghan
Governor Roy Cooper joined U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo at the Kramden Institute in Durham to announce the Biden-Harris Administration's Internet for All initiative. The $45 billion investment in affordable, reliable high-speed internet access will be administered and implemented by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
“High-speed and reliable internet is now essential for North Carolinians to work, learn and have access to health care,” Governor Cooper said. “We’re excited for this partnership with the federal government to help us close the digital divide and strengthen our communities.”
“In the 21st century, you simply cannot participate in the economy if you don’t have access to reliable, affordable high-speed internet,” said Secretary Raimondo. “Thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Americans across the country will no longer be held back by a lack of high-speed internet access. We are going to ensure every American will have access to technologies that allow them to attend class, start a small business, visit with their doctor, and participate in the modern economy.”
“It’s exhilarating to hear first-hand about the programs that NTIA is launching today,” said State Chief Information Officer and NCDIT Secretary James A. Weaver. “This additional funding will enable us to expand our efforts to ensure every North Carolinian has access to affordable, high-speed internet, with the devices and training needed to fully participate in the digital economy.”
“Access to broadband is critical infrastructure just like water, utilities and transportation,” said N.C. Commerce Chief Deputy Secretary Jordan Whichard. “This investment and partnership will support our economic development strategy that will build a more resilient economy, further develop the world-class workforce our companies need, and most importantly, continue creating an economy that works for every North Carolinian.”
During the visit, Governor Cooper and Secretary Raimondo toured the Kramden Institute’s computer lab and teaching facilities. They also spoke with North Carolina families who have benefited from increased digital connectivity.
The Internet for All program has three Notices of Funding Opportunities. The Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program will disburse $42.5 billion in grants to support states’ planning efforts to create the infrastructure needed to connect people from rural to urban communities. The Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program will fund $1 billion in grants for the construction, improvement, or acquisition of middle mile infrastructure. The Digital Equity Act will invest $1.5 billion to heighten adoption and use of programs like digital literacy trainings for those who need it most, including communities of color and older Americans.
Governor Cooper has focused on expanding access to high-speed internet and taken significant action to increase digital equity in North Carolina. In July 2021, Governor Cooper announced the creation of the nation’s first Office of Digital Equity and Literacy, to expand digital literacy offerings and partnerships across North Carolina, lead the Digital Equity and Inclusion Collaborative and promote the NC Digital Inclusion Playbook for local municipalities.
In 2018, Governor Cooper launched the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) Grant Program to bring high-speed internet to thousands of North Carolinians, businesses and farms in rural areas. Since the program began, the state has invested more than $55 million to connect over 40,000 households and businesses to broadband. Currently, 305 applications are under review for the next $350 million in GREAT grants funded by the American Rescue Plan.
The Kramden Institute, a local nonprofit in Durham, provides technology tools and training to bridge the digital divide. Kramden has awarded more than 43,000 computers to families, and over 7,700 people have participated in a Kramden technology and STEM class, workshop or camp.
Read more about the Biden-Harris Administration’s “Internet for All” Initiative.