More high-speed Internet service is coming to much-needed areas of rural North Carolina after two state grants totaling $415,000 were recently awarded to Eastern Carolina Broadband of Pink Hill.
(TNS) — More high-speed Internet service is coming to much-needed areas of rural North Carolina because of two state grants totaling $415,000 to Eastern Carolina Broadband of Pink Hill.
The company will contribute $221,000 to complete $636,000 in total project monies for Lenoir and Jones counties. ECB provides Internet services to rural and underserved areas of Lenoir, Jones and Duplin counties. The grants are through the North Carolina Department of Information Technology's Broadband Infrastructure Office.
The grants will cover 65 percent of projects for Lenoir and Jones counties.
A $135,201 grant will allow the company to deploy services to about 319 more households, businesses, agricultural operations and anchor institutions in Lenoir County. ECB's share is $72,000. A $279,901 grant will apply in the same way for about 569 Jones County customers, with ECB putting in $150,000.
Susan Myers, co-founder and a managing partner of Eastern Carolina Broadband, said these grants greatly help her company continue its work on "last mile Internet" to areas that are without or have poor signal service.
"In a bi-partisan effort, the state legislature approved for the first time a grant program to help companies provide Internet to rural areas in Tier I counties," she said. "Eastern Carolina Broadband applied for and won grants for both Jones and Lenoir Counties. The state asked local governments to partner by providing affordable access to their vertical assets such as water towers and EMS towers."
Myers said ECB uses fixed wireless technology to beam fiber off of water towers, grain elevators and utility poles to local homes and businesses.
"After working with the N.C. Broadband office and our local 'Think Tank,' we were shocked that so many rural school children, farmers and businesses did not have access to high-speed Internet," she said of the company's founding principles. "Our community will fall behind without access to high-speed Internet. Thus, several of us founded Eastern Carolina Broadband, LLC to provide affordable high-speed Internet to those rural households and businesses. For us, this is a social investment in our community."
She praised the participating local governments.
She said affordable leasing was arranged in Jones County on water towers, grain elevators and the EMS tower.
"We will utilize the grant to install equipment on these vertical assets," she said. "Deployment in Jones County will start in 60 days, but it may take the company up to 18 months to offer services to all 659 locations."
She said there is more need in Lenoir County number-wise, but affordable leasing couldn't be arranged with several Lenoir towns and entities, limiting the numbers to 319.
"If we are able to rent the water towers in the future, then we may be able to apply for a grant next year for Lenoir County," she said.
ECB is also in Duplin County and has leased space on all the county-owned water towers and many grain elevators. Because Duplin wasn't rated as a Tier 1 county in 2018, it was not eligible for the grant. Duplin has once again been rated a Tier I county in 2019 and will be eligible next year. ECB plans to apply.
In the meantime, Meyers said ECB is launching Internet where it can in Duplin County.
"Much of the rural areas of Tier II counties, such as Craven, Onslow and Pamlico, do not have access to high speed Internet. We are hoping that the 2020 GREAT Grant program will allow us to apply for rural areas of Tier II counties," she added.
More information on services, rates and other questions are on the ECB web site at ecbroadband.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eastern Carolina Broadband is a locally-owned and operated company, incorporated in 2017 by four experienced business owners — Myers, Al Rachide, Rodney Scott and Jennings Outlaw.
One thing the company touts is that it charges no "hidden fees," since wireless transmissions are tax-free by law.
Also according to the website, the typical subscriber antenna is the size of a dinner plate or smaller. For some homes that are at the outer range of service, a two-foot dish may be needed.
This system is optimized to provide Internet service, not cell phone service.
More information is online at mobileinfo.com/Broadband/wrls_bdbd_work.htm
©2019 the Sun Journal (New Bern, N.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.