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Broadband grant funds’ fate unclear

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By LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Monday, June 19, 2017

Nash County is on hold, waiting to see whether a proposal by Gov. Roy Cooper to fund broadband makes it into the state's final 2017-18 budget.

“We're hoping to know before long. We'll pursue it if it's in the budget,” said Patsy McGhee, the county's administrator of Grants and Intergovernmental Relations.

Cooper’s Common Ground Solutions budget includes $20 million to improve internet access and service to households and businesses in underserved areas of North Carolina. Of that $20 million, $14.5 million would create a grant program to help local governments working with private providers and utility cooperatives to complete ‘last mile’ broadband projects.

Nash County qualifies for such a grant, according to Cooper's office. If approved, the county would receive funds for countywide wireline connectivity for unserved or underserved rural residents.

Nash is one of 16 broadband projects across the state that could compete for funding, according to newly released information from the Broadband Infrastructure Office.

If approved, the projects would provide needed internet access to thousands of North Carolinians and spur economic development.

“Broadband access is a must for economic success in our rural communities,” Cooper said. “We have already seen how access to high-speed internet has allowed business in rural areas to thrive. We cannot deprive rural North Carolinians of this vital tool for competition in a global marketplace.”

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