Online Originals: Cooper takes back $30 million in broadband access for rural communities

Online Originals

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — High-speed internet access is a necessity during this time. Many people are still working from home, and a majority of students are learning remotely.

However, there are still people in rural parts of the state without broadband access.

Back in September, Gov. Roy Cooper approved using $30 million in grants to upgrade bandwidth for people in rural communities. The money was made available through the CARES Act funding that was approved by Congress in March to help states with COVID-19 related expenses.

States had to spend that money by the end of December.

Last week, internet providers from rural areas got an email from the governor’s office, stating that the funding will no longer be used for broadband service. According to the state’s broadband availability index, more than 30 of North Carolina’s 100 counties lack reliable access to the internet.

On an availability scale of 0-95, Hyde County scored 0. Graham, Swain, and Greene counties scored less than 30.

After pulling the funding, Cooper said he believed the money could be better used elsewhere. The governor’s office is not responding to questions about why Cooper pulled the money or where he now plans to spend it.

GOP lawmakers have written a letter to Cooper, asking him to re-think allocating that money elsewhere. They say these rural areas need this funding more than ever for teleworking and distance learning. They also said it’s reasonable to expect this money because dozens of providers had been promised and expected to receive it this month.

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