ALEXANDER COUNTY, N.C. — Efforts to provide high-speed internet access to all North Carolinians continue, after the state made a nearly $80 million investment over the summer to bring service to more than 25,000 homes and 862 businesses.
According to Gov. Roy Cooper's office, at least 1.1 million North Carolina households have lacked access, money, or the skills to utilize the digital economy, reducing healthcare, workforce, and equitable education opportunities.
Rural Alexander County joins communities around the state getting connected through multiple state grant programs and partnerships, as part of Gov. Cooper's plan to close the digital divide.
“We are a rural county that's topographies difficult to be able to provide some of those services," Alexander County Manager Shane Fox said. "Everyone has and expects electricity and running water for the most part. We expect the same type of service, hopefully, to be able to expand to broadband.”
Grants from the Complete Access to Broadband program were awarded to 14 counties - a $22 million investment, connecting more than 6,000 homes and businesses to high-speed internet, according to Alexander County.
Spectrum partnered with the county to apply for funding from program, which totaled $919,437.35. The county match for the grant is only $1, which will come from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding through the federal government.
Spectrum is investing $162,254, making the total project investment more than $1 million, according to Alexander County.
“That should provide access to about 152 households within the county, kind of spaced out within different areas that are in need of service," Fox said.
Over the next year, Spectrum will work to expand broadband infrastructure in the following roads, (number of homes in parentheses): Mountain Ridge Church Road (26), Vashti Road (20), Russell Gap Road (17), Gus Pennell Lane (11), Blankenship Road (10), Ridgeway Drive (8), All Healing Springs Road (7), Cherokee Lane (6), Lawson Childers Road (6), Poplar Valley Lane (6), Bentley Farm Lane (5), Lona Daniels Loop (5), Daniels Ridge Road (3), Hickory Drive (3), Hidden Valley Road (3), Vashti Fire Dept. Road (3), Bethel Church Road (2), Bobby Godfrey Lane (2), Mays Hideaway Lane (2), Mt. Olive Church Road (2), Stonie Burke Drive (2), Oakwood Baptist Church Lane (1), Queen Ridge Road (1), and Ridgeway MHP Lane (1).
The investment will increase access to just under 80% of Alexander County residents, according to Fox.
“We're still lacking, but we're making progress," Fox said.
Alexander County is also working to secure grant funding to help train former employees of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, after it abruptly shut down in August.
More than 500 people were left without a job when the decades-old furniture plant filed for bankruptcy.
It was the second-largest employer in the area.