Gov. Pat McCrory announced today that the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) is awarding a total of $272,000 to 10 western North Carolina communities that plan to offer free Wi-Fi access in their downtown areas.
“Connecting North Carolina communities and classrooms to Wi-Fi has been a central focus of our administration since day one,” said Gov. McCrory. “These grants build on our commitment to improve North Carolina’s economy and education, and will help western North Carolina offer or expand Internet access for residents, students, entrepreneurs and visitors.”
The 10 municipal grant recipients are:
- Bryson City with a grant amount of $10,493
- Forest City with a grant amount of $21,200
- Granite Falls with a grant amount of $29,681
- Hudson with a grant amount of $40,735
- Morganton with a grant amount of $30,783
- Rosman with a grant amount of $5,780
- Rutherford College with a grant amount of $31,720
- Valdese with a grant amount of $49,094
- Walnut Cove with a grant amount of $17,944
- Wilkesboro with a grant amount of $35,000
Projects require a local match and will be self-supporting upon completion of the one-year term of the grant.
N.C. Commerce Secretary John E. Skvarla, III, N.C. Department of Information Technology Secretary Keith Werner and ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl Gohl awarded the grants today at Isothermal Community College in Rutherford County.
“Broadband access brings modern vitality to North Carolina’s historic business districts,” Secretary Skvarla said. “These investments will serve approximately 415 businesses and attract visitors. Wi-Fi is also a critical resource for secondary and post-secondary students in these communities who may not have high-speed Internet access at home.”
The ARC-supported Wi-Fi projects advance the goals of North Carolina’s State Broadband Plan, which guides policies and programs that seek to leverage broadband infrastructure as a catalyst for education, economic development and public-service delivery. The plan was developed in 2015 by the North Carolina Information Technology’s Broadband Infrastructure team.
“From day one, Governor Pat McCrory has been committed to transforming the way North Carolinians do business throughout the state,” said Secretary Werner. “Improving North Carolina’s broadband infrastructure to increase access to affordable high-speed Internet is key to making Governor McCrory’s vision a reality.”
North Carolina ranks No. 2 in the nation in state investment in broadband infrastructure, according to the 2016 “Fifty States of Broadband” report by the Strategic Networks Group. To build on this ranking, Governor McCrory has committed to connecting 100 percent of North Carolina classrooms to robust Wi-Fi by 2018. Currently more than 65 percent of classrooms have access to Wi-Fi. When the governor entered office in 2013, just 22 percent of classrooms were connected.
Established in 1965, the Appalachian Regional Commission is an economic development agency of the federal government. North Carolina is among 13 states working in partnership with ARC in facilitating economic and community development in 420 counties across Appalachia. There are 29 North Carolina counties in the ARC footprint. Its programs in the state are administered by the Rural Economic Development team at N.C. Commerce.