USDA to fund $83M in broadband upgrades in N.C.

Posted August 4, 2010 4:57 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina won five federal grants Wednesday to pay for $83 million in upgrades to its broadband infrastructure in rural areas.

The grants are part of $1.2 billion in economic stimulus funds the U.S. Department of Agriculture will invest in broadband projects nationwide. An additional $117 million in private investment will be leveraged in the 126 projects.

“The broadband projects announced today will give rural Americans access to the tools they need to attract new businesses, jobs, health care and educational opportunities,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “The Obama administration understands that bringing broadband to rural America provides a gateway for businesses and key anchor institutions – such as libraries, schools, public safety and community centers – to provide services to thousands of Americans. These projects will create jobs building these networks, and the completed systems will provide a platform for rural economic growth for years to come.”

Country Cablevision Inc. will get $25.3 million to provide digital services to about 33,000 residents, 1,900 businesses and 120 community agencies in the Yancey County area. Wilkes Telecommunications Inc. will get $21.6 million to lay fiber-optic cable to serve about 8,500 residents, 3,300 businesses and 45 community agencies in Wilkes County.

Lumbee River Electric Membership Corp. will get $19.9 million to provide fiber-to-the-home services 27,000 residents, 1,600 businesses and 100 community agencies. Atlantic Telephone Membership Corp. will get $16 million to provide high-capacity data, voice and video services to critical community services and public safety agencies in Columbus County. Utopian Wireless Corp. will get $460,993 to develop a wireless network in and around Riegelwood.

“Critical infrastructure improvements, such as increasing broadband access, are key to boosting local economies and creating jobs,” Gov. Beverly Perdue said in a statement.