North Carolina Hot air balloon

North Carolina awarded $51 million to cover some of the costs of deploying broadband in 15 rural counties this week. Six broadband providers are slated to receive funding and, collectively, will contribute an additional $16 million toward total project costs of $67 million.

Among the winners were three large providers – Brightspeed, Charter and Windstream. Also among the awardees were three local providers —  FOCUS Broadband, Skyrunner and SkyBest Communications.

FOCUS began life in the 1950s as a telephone cooperative serving a rural area of the state. The company, originally known as Atlantic Telephone Membership Corporation, began using the FOCUS brand several years ago and changed its name to FOCUS in 2022.

The company has been quite successful in winning broadband funding and using it to expand substantially.

SkyBest is a fiber provider based in North Carolina and subsidiary of SkyLine Membership Corporation, another company founded in the 1950s as a telephone cooperative.

Skyrunner, founded in 1997, offers fixed wireless and fiber internet in the Carolinas and Tennessee.

The awards were made by the North Carolina Department of Information Technology (NCDIT) Division of Broadband and Digital Equity. Of the $51 million awarded, $35 million came through the federal American Rescue Plan Act and $16 million came from the counties.

The funding is expected to make broadband at symmetrical 100 Mbps service available to 15,835 households and businesses.

The awards were made through the state’s Completing Access to Broadband program. NCDIT did not break down how much funding each provider would receive, but instead broke it down by county.

  • Brightspeed won funding for six counties, making it the biggest winner measured by number of counties.
  • Four providers – including Charter, FOCUS, Skyrunner and Windstream – each won funding for two counties.
  • SkyBest won funding for one county.

Brightspeed issued an announcement stating that its grants totaled $22.5 million, and FOCUS Broadband issued an announcement stating that its awards totaled $5.4 million. In addition, Windstream announced that it was awarded $4.5 million.

The CAB program procurement process enables counties to work with NCDIT to identify locations that need access, solicit proposals from prequalified broadband providers and determine awardees.

In a prepared statement, NCDIT Secretary and State Chief Information Officer Jim Weaver highlighted how quickly award decisions were made.

“By partnering directly with county leaders, we can focus on their individual community needs and together make decisions that will benefit their constituents,” Weaver said.

“Thanks to our extensive mapping, previous prequalification process and . . . providers’ responsiveness, we posted these counties’ scopes of work in March and April and worked with them to make awards for new broadband projects in less than three months.”

Additional information about North Carolina broadband, including links to state funding resources, state specific Telecompetitor coverage, awards made and more, can be found on the Telecompetitor Broadband Nation webpage for the state.

Updated with information from Brightspeed, FOCUS Broadband and Windstream.

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