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GREAT Grant Broadband Expansion Award given to Star Telephone Membership Corporation

Clinton, N.C. – Faster Internet is coming to parts of Bladen County.  Governor Roy Cooper along with the NC Department of Information Technology and its Broadband Infrastructure Office awarded Star Telephone Membership Corp., dba (Star Communications) a portion of the GREAT (Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology) Grant to expand High-Speed Internet into rural areas of Bladen County.  All rural areas of North Carolina need access to high-speed Internet to encourage online learning, economic development, and access to the global economy. 

The GREAT Grant program was established by Session Law 2018-5, to assist tier 1 distressed counties in North Carolina to procure broadband in speeds up to 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Megabit upload.  Applications were scored on homes/businesses/farms passed and the cost to serve those locations broadband up to and beyond 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up.

Star Communications was an applicant for the GREAT Grant, and ultimately a winner.  Star Communications, a cooperative that operates mainly in Sampson and Bladen Counties, has been in business since 1959.  Star serves the most rural areas of the state and averages only 2.6 customers per route mile of cable.  The formation of Star Telephone Membership Corporation by local farmers, merchants, and residents in 1959 was to bring telephone service to the rural areas of Sampson, Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, and Duplin Counties.  Cooperatives were formed to serve areas that for profit companies would not serve because they could not make a profit.  The same problems that affected rural areas procuring telephone service in 1959 now plague rural areas in 2019 accessing fast Broadband Internet services.  Because of the grant, Star will be able to bring fiber-optics to 463 households, businesses, and farms in Bladen County within the next year.

The GREAT program provides matching grants to Internet Service Providers (ISP) to lower financial barriers, which prevent high speed Internet service expansion to rural distressed tier 1 North Carolina counties. 

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