Moore residents to receive broadband access

Many residents in rural areas of Moore County lack broadband internet access; however, some can expect service after the Moore County Board of Commissioners approved the second round of funding from a state grant.

Expanding access is the purpose of the North Carolina Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) program, designed to bring gigabit high-speed access to homes and businesses in Moore County and across the state.

Last fall, it was announced a grant would go to Brightspeed, formerly CenturyLink, for $4 million from the state for a total project cost of $9,421,502, with a county contribution of $500,000 for which funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) are to be used. This means approximately 3,478 households and businesses in Moore County, which currently have no broadband internet, will receive that access.

On Oct. 17, the Moore County Board of Commissioners met to discuss the ongoing project, announcing that there were still available funds after the state funding for Brightspeed. After reexamining previous applicants and jurisdictions that have submitted more than one application, Charter Communications (Spectrum), a previous applicant, asked the county whether they were still interested in partnering with them to expand broadband coverage even further. This would bring that coverage to an additional 1,459 addresses, most of which are residential.

The total for that project comes to $8,220,633. Money coming from the state amounts to $4 million. Charter would add another $4,210,633, and the county contribution would be $10,000 from ARPA funds. During the document submission process, the fact that the county’s contribution comes from ARPA helps with the scoring of the application.

Charter reached back to the county, expressing its desire to participate in Moore County and expand its service area. It has its sights set on a next-step funding, which would be from Completing Access to Broadband (CAB), another round of funding to come later. 

As the $10,000 contribution from the county is such a relatively small amount, it was suggested that the county pay that upfront so they wouldn’t have to pay out .12 percent when the invoices come through.

Charter and Brightspeed would not duplicate addresses receiving broadband access, so each address would be exclusively one or the other. 

The state uses the presence of service at one address within a census block to determine if all addresses within that block have service. However, it has been pointed out that this assumption may not always be accurate.

It was moved that the board go with “Option J,” which is the upfront payment of $10,000 because it’s considered a wise investment. That motion was unanimously approved.

While it was not made clear where the addresses of those who can gain broadband are, it was pointed out by one commissioner who said he figured people between Robbins and Seven Lakes are among those who currently are without broadband service, and it was met with general agreement. The county is working on creating a map of the addresses, and once that has been distributed and made available to the media, Sandhills Sentinel will report on it here.

~Written by Sandhills Sentinel reporter Steve Biddle.

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