N.C. Governor awards $1.8 million grant to expand broadband
In his May 8 announcement, the governor unveiled his plan to offer $10 million in grants to expand internet access to 19 rural counties in North Carolina.
The major funding boost is part of the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) program, which provides matching grants to internet service providers and electric membership cooperatives that compete for funding to lower financial barriers preventing broadband internet service expansion in the state’s most economically distressed counties.
The co-op’s Roanoke Connect program will receive a total of $1,867,547. The funds will be allocated among the counties in its service territory as follows:
- Gates County - $327,010
- Hertford County- $376,892
- Bertie County - $641,978
- Northampton County- $521,667
The Roanoke Connect initiative serves the dual purpose of providing co-op member-owners with broadband internet access to enable the use of energy-saving technologies, while also enhancing system reliability and operational efficiencies.
“Our goal has always been to extend advanced services to our member-owners,” said Roanoke Electric Co-op President and CEO Curtis Wynn. “The funds received from the GREAT grants program will allow us to expand the fiber backbone further than originally budgeted. In turn, we are able to reach more of our member-owners and give them the ability to utilize Roanoke Electric Co-op applications, including access the Internet for work, school and entertainment.”
More than 300 member-owners currently subscribe to Roanoke Connect™ internet service.
“As we move to accelerate our deployment, we expect nearly 1,300 to be online by the end of 2019,” Wynn added. More than 700 member-owners have installed the co-op’s cost-saving energy-efficiency devices, such as smart thermostats and water heater controls. “We plan to surpass 2,000 by the end of this year.”
As of mid-May, the percentage of internet service connections in each county have been completed as follows:
- 39 % in Bertie County
- 18 % in Halifax County
- 16 % in Gates County
- 14 % in Hertford County
- 14% in Northampton County
Roanoke Connect is currently averaging 40 new internet connections per month, but plans are underway to increase the pace of installations.
“We are now moving into an accelerated period of construction and are projecting our installations will increase to about 110 per month,” Wynn said. “The expected completion date of this project is within the next three-to-four years. The GREAT funds we are receiving will not accelerate that pace, but will allow Roanoke to extend additional fiber to some of our more remote locations.”
Wynn noted that the Roanoke Connect project’s primary objective is to improve the co-op’s ability to keep member-owners’ electric service reliable and to keep their electricity costs as affordable as possible. By leveraging its investments to provide broadband Internet service, the co-op is improving the quality of life throughout the region by enabling the creation of more jobs, better health care and enhanced education in local schools.
Roanoke Electric Cooperative provides service to 14,500 members in Bertie, Hertford, Halifax, Northampton, Gates, Perquimans and Chowan counties. Chartered in 1938 to provide light and power to farms, the co-op today serves as an engine of economic development and provides educational, recreational and community assistance services to enhance the quality of life of its member-owners throughout the diverse communities it serves. Roanoke Electric Cooperative news for journalists available at REC Newsroom. Roanoke Electric Cooperative is an equal opportunity provider and employer.