People on computer

North Carolina is launching the state’s first digital equity grant program, designed to help state residents afford high-speed internet, obtain digital devices, and access digital literacy resources.

The $24 million, multi-phased program, administered by the state’s Department of Information Technology’s Office of Digital Equity and Literacy, will use federal American Rescue Plan Act funds for collaborative digital equity projects.

The program will invest $10 million in the first phase to support 10-15 state government entities to develop or expand digital inclusion programs.

Applicants must be North Carolina state government entities. Those include: the North Carolina System or individual schools, universities, or centers within the system; as well as the N.C. Community College System or individual schools, colleges or centers within the system.

The two-year, non-competitive grant funding program promotes collaborative partnerships. Each grant winner will receive a maximum of $2 million for a project that must be completed by the end of 2024.

Applications from state government entities will be accepted through Oct. 28. Information sessions for applicants will be held Oct. 4, Oct. 10 and Oct. 20.

“We want more North Carolinians to get the tools and knowledge they need to connect to high-speed internet and to use it to transform their communities and their lives,” said Gov. Roy Cooper in a prepared statement about the North Carolina digital equity program. “This is an important step toward getting more people connected online so they can work, learn, access telehealth and connect with one another.”

This is the second announcement the state has made about broadband grants this month. Previously, state officials announced grants of more than $206 million in its Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) grant program. In all, the grants will bring broadband access to almost 85,000 households and more than 2,400 businesses in 69 counties in the state.

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