RALEIGH Dec 16, 2019 Internet service providers and electric membership cooperatives can now apply for $15 million in state funding aimed at helping bring high-speed internet access to rural parts of North Carolina. Authorized by the N.C. General Assembly and administered by the N.C. Department of Information Technology’s Broadband Infrastructure Office, the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) Grant Program supports efforts by private internet service providers to deploy broadband infrastructure to the state’s 40 most economically distressed counties. Applications for the 2019-2020 award period are being accepted from Dec. 16, 2019, to March 16, 2020. Information on how to apply can be found at https://www.ncbroadband.gov/greatgrant/. “Broadband is integral to so many aspects of society – from education to healthcare to public safety to economic development – but too many areas across the state, particularly rural, still lack internet access,” said Eric Boyette, NCDIT secretary and state chief information officer. “The GREAT Grant program is one way to tackle this digital divide. I’m looking forward to seeing what providers come up with to ensure every North Carolinian has the broadband access necessary for the 21st century.” In May 2019, the GREAT Grant Program awarded providers in 19 counties nearly $10 million to bring high-speed internet to more than 10,000 households, businesses, agricultural operations and community institutions, such as libraries, schools and hospitals. Areas eligible for GREAT Grant funding are census blocks or portions of census blocks in Tier 1 counties – as designated by the N.C. Department of Commerce – that lack access to an internet service providing a minimum download speed of 10 megabits per second and a minimum upload speed of 1 megabit per second.