Federal government agencies as well as national and state nonprofit organizations have historically provided grants for broadband providers and counties and municipalities working toward broadband access for unserved and underserved populations.
Loans for broadband deployment projects have also been made available.
Communities have also tapped local foundations or businesses for assistance. Others have benefited from residents who contributed funds or created internet service companies.
Community leaders can contact the Broadband Infrastructure Office’s Technical Assistance team for information on funding possibilities.
Federal Grant Opportunities
Grantor: Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
The schools and libraries universal service support program, commonly known as the E-rate program, helps schools and libraries obtain affordable broadband.
Eligible schools, school districts and libraries may apply individually or as part of a consortium. Funding may be requested under two categories of service: category one services to a school or library (telecommunications, telecommunications services and internet access), and category two services that deliver internet access within schools and libraries (internal connections, basic maintenance of internal connections, and managed internal broadband services). Discounts for support depend on the level of poverty and whether the school or library is in an urban or rural area. The discounts range from 20% to 90% of the costs of eligible services. E-rate program funding is based on demand up to an annual FCC-established cap of $3.9 billion.
Grantor: U.S. Department of Agriculture
The Farm Bill Broadband Program is designed to provide loans for funding, on a technology neutral basis, for the costs of construction, improvement and acquisition of facilities and equipment to provide broadband service to eligible rural communities.
Grantor: Federal Communications Commission, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, other
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) compiles and lists several funding sources for telecommunications and broadband services for eligible health care providers. They are as follows:
- FCC’s Rural Health Care Program
- Includes Healthcare Connect Fund
- U.S. Department of Agriculture
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Programs
- Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology
- National Institutes for Health
Grantor: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
The Rural Business Development Grants combines the Rural Business Opportunity Grant program and the Rural Business Enterprise Grant program. USDA Rural Development is currently working on a rule to implement the program.
Grantor: U.S. Department of Agriculture
The Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan Program makes long-term direct and guaranteed loans to qualified organizations for the purpose of financing the improvement, expansion, construction, acquisition and operation of telephone lines, facilities or systems to furnish and improve telecommunications service in rural areas. All facilities financed must be capable of supporting broadband services.
Nonprofit & Foundation Grant Opportunities
Education Superhighway’s mission is to upgrade internet access in every public-school classroom in America so that all students can take advantage of the promise of digital learning. They have identified and offer resources to communities to overcome three primary barriers to having adequate broadband speeds in the classroom, awareness, expertise and affordability.
EveryoneOn is working to eliminate the digital divide by making high-speed, low-cost internet service and computers, and free digital literacy courses accessible to all unconnected Americans.
The national nonprofit does so through partnerships with local internet service providers and offers free or $9.95 home internet service in 48 states and the District of Columbia. They work with device refurbishers, so individuals and their families can purchase discounted devices, including $150 tablets and $199 laptops. Citizens can directly interact with the organization and receive the benefits.
The Golden LEAF Foundation funds projects that promise to bring significant economic improvement to the tobacco-dependent, economically distressed and/or rural communities of North Carolina.
A Facebook-led partnership with the mission to “connect the two-thirds of the world that don’t have internet access.”
Grantor: The Rural Center
The North Carolina Capital Access Program expands business finance options for businesses across the state. By reducing risk, it encourages banks and other qualified lenders to consider loans that otherwise fall just outside conventional underwriting standards.
TechSoup Global is one of the most comprehensive technology resources for non-governmental organizations around the world. Working with corporate donors, including Microsoft, Adobe, Cisco and Symantec, TechSoup provides non-governmental organizations, nonprofits, libraries and community-based organizations with the latest professional hardware, software, and services they need. These information and communication technology (ICT) donations are available alongside educational content, such as articles, webinars, and tech community forums.
The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation makes grants to charitable, tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) organizations and government entities for programs and projects that serve the people of North Carolina. Some grants must be solicited in certain focus areas, but others can be made through their small grant programs.