Forsyth household, businesses gain access to internet grant program | Local

Households and businesses in Forsyth County have been added to a statewide initiative that expands access to high-speed internet through a state grant program.

The funds come from the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) program that is providing $206 million to the 69 counties participating in the latest round.

The Forsyth connection is through Connect Holding II LLC, which is the vendor in Ashe and Wilkes counties as well.

The Forsyth grant is projected to serve 20 households and no businesses. The grant funding is $211,066 with a local match of $173,690.

The vendor participating is NC Communications Advanced Serv (Lumos) in Alamance and Randolph, while AT&T NC is the provider in Guilford and Zitel LLC in Surry.

The initiative is expected to benefit 1,864 households and 14 businesses in Randolph, along with 711 households and 23 businesses in Alamance, 249 households and three businesses in Guilford, 146 households and six businesses in Surry, 132 households and two businesses in Wilkes and seven households and two businesses in Ashe.

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Altogether, nearly 85,000 households and more than 2,400 businesses will benefit statewide.

Additional grants are expected to be announced this fall up to a total of $350 million.

“High-speed internet access is critical for people to work, learn, access telehealth and connect with one another,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement.

The NC Department of Information Technology’s Broadband Infrastructure Office is handling the grants.

“These funds will go a long way in closing the digital divide by bringing equitable access to both rural and urban communities,” said Jim Weaver, the state’s Information Technology secretary and state chief information officer.

The grant program provides matching grants to internet service providers and electric membership cooperatives that may partner with individual counties to compete for funding to expand high-speed internet service to unserved and underserved areas of the state.

All internet service provider applicants must be participating in the Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides eligible low-income households a $30 per month discount on high-speed internet service or provide access to a comparable low-cost program.

Applicants must agree to provide high-speed service, defined as a minimum of 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 20 Mbps upload, scalable to 100 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload on or before Dec. 31, 2026.

All awards are contingent on final executed grant agreements with broadband provider partners.

The grants are: Randolph, $4 million and $796,715 local match; Alamance, $3.12 million and $549,949 local match; Guilford, $563,954 with $99,521 local match; Wilkes, $556,266 and $238,400 local match; Surry, $372,175 and $159,504 local match; and Ashe, $128,529 and $105,160 local match.

For more information about the Affordable Connectivity Program and $30 per month packages, go to getinternet.gov.

On Aug. 2, grants were announced for Davie, Stokes and Yadkin counties. There were 11 counties chosen for the second round affecting more than 13,000 households and 582 businesses. The grant total is about $30.8 million in grants.

On July 18, Davidson County was among the first 12 counties to be announced on July 18 in the first round that affected nearly 7,000 households and 374 businesses. There was more than $23.4 million in grants, as well as an overall $7.34 million in matching grants.

Yadkinville-based Zirrus, formerly known as Yadtel, is the internet service provider involved with the Davidson, Davie, Stokes and Yadkin expansions.

Stokes received the largest funding amount of the three Triad counties at $4 million to Zirrus, along with a $2.53 million match required of Zirrus.

Yadkin was at $2.59 million to Zirrus and a $1.11 million match, while Davie was at $595,983 to Zirrus and a $255,421 match.

For the Davidson grant, it was worth $1.96 million to Zirrus, with Zirrus required to provide a $346,470 match.

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