What are the impacts of the GREAT grant program and how could NCDIT enhance the program?
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The mission of the NC Department of Information Technology (NCDIT) is to enable trusted business-driven solutions that meet the needs of North Carolinians. NCDIT provides technology services to state agencies and is charged with closing the digital divide by expanding availability of broadband services and promoting the adoption of affordable, high-speed internet.
The NCDIT Division of Broadband and Digital Equity is responsible for expanding access to broadband infrastructure, supporting affordability, advancing digital literacy and building digital equity in North Carolina. The Division houses two offices, the Broadband Infrastructure Office (BIO) and the Office of Digital Equity and Literacy (ODEL), charged with ensuring that every North Carolinian has access to an affordable, high-speed internet connection. The goals of the Division are to ensure that, by 2025, 98 percent of households have broadband internet access, 80 percent of households subscribe to broadband internet, and 100 percent of households with children subscribe to broadband internet.
NCDIT BIO serves as a statewide resource for broadband expansion and first-responder communications. NCDIT BIO works collaboratively with state, federal, local, private and nonprofit partners to draw attention to the digital divide in the state and work to close the gap by administering rural broadband grant programs, facilitating partnerships with broadband providers, gathering data to identify unserved areas, and providing policy and technical guidance to local and state leaders. One of the key programs operated by NCDIT BIO is the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) Grant Program designed to provide grants to private providers of broadband services to facilitate the deployment of broadband service to unserved areas of North Carolina.
The GREAT Grant Program aims to provide matching grants to private providers of broadband services and electric membership cooperatives to facilitate the deployment of broadband services to areas of the state unserved with broadband. The GREAT Grant program is a competitive grant program established under S.L. 2018-52, codified as a matching grant program in N.C.G.S. § 143B-13733, and amended by S.L. 2019-2304, S.L. 2020-975, and S.L. 2021-180.6 The program provides grants for eligible projects in eligible economically distressed counties. Partnership with a county is not required but is encouraged, and rewarded, with extra points during the application review process.
- NCDIT and OSP anticipate this evaluation to result in a series of reports, published approximately Dec 2023 and Dec 2024, including quantitative analyses related to access to broadband in funded areas, relative to unfunded areas.
- Additional deliverables, if resources allow, may include quantitative and qualitative findings related to more distal outcomes (e.g., actual subscription, use, and the impact on people’s lives), captured through surveys and/or interviews.
Planned use of results
The results of this evaluation (first report) will inform policymakers about the effectiveness of efforts to increase broadband access in underserved communities in North Carolina. The results may also be useful for program design changes related to this program and other DIT programs as well (e.g., Connecting Access to Broadband and Stop-Gap Solutions). The results may also inform decisions about investment of federal funds allocated to the state from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
DIT data include household and business level data on whether broadband internet service is available at those locations. Other data that might supplement these household/business level data include US Census Bureau’s ACCESS BROADBAND Dashboard, NC One Map’s geographic data, the NC Broadband Survey, and more. If resources are available, new data may be collected in the form of surveys and/or semi-structured interviews with heads of households and business owners.
The project is in progress.
We plan to post results and deliverables when the project is complete. In the meantime, we welcome questions about the project.
Project point of contact
Policy Director, Division of Broadband and Digital Equity
NC Department of Information Technology
NC Department of Information Technology
NC Office of Strategic Partnerships