The federal government will spend more than $1 million to bring high-speed Internet to 3,600 North Carolinians living in rural areas.
North Carolina is one of 36 states in the first phase of the Connect America Fund, an initiative sponsored by the Federal Communications Commission, said FCC spokesman Mark Wigfield. The fund subsidizes the cost of broadband infrastructure in areas with low population density.
The fund will join with Windstream, Frontier and CenturyLink in North Carolina
“This is just a down payment on receiving an entire unserved population,” Wigfield said.
The FCC funding will be supplemented by private investments.
The three companies are required to complete two-thirds of the new broadband commitments in two years.
The FCC estimates that more than 15 percent – roughly 493,000 people – of North Carolina’s rural population lacks high-speed Internet access, which is defined as a 3 megabyte download speed and 768 kilobyte upload speed.
Across the nation, about 19 million people live in rural areas that lack high speed internet access. North Carolina ranks 38th in rural broadband availability.
The FCC wants to achieve full broadband availability by 2020 through the Connect America Fund.
The fund is similar to the Universal Service Fund, which was initially launched in 1997 to extend basic telephone service everywhere in the United States, said Dan Page, a spokesman for Frontier.
The cost of developing broadband service in remote areas has been a barrier to increasing rural access in the past.
“The challenge is whether you can build the facilities and recover the investment,” Page said. “Building infrastructure in low density areas can be problematic if you don’t have a return.”