YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. — On Monday, July 18, Blue Ridge Mountain EMC (BRMEMC) was awarded $5,491,000 in funding through the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) Grant program as part of Gov. Roy Cooper’s plan to invest nearly $2 billion in federal and state funds to close the digital divide in North Carolina. The GREAT program provides matching grants to internet service providers and electric membership cooperatives that partner with individual N.C. counties to compete for funding to expand high-speed internet service to unserved areas of the state. BRMEMC will match 30% of the total $5.5 million and the state of North Carolina will cover the remaining 70%. All awards are contingent on final executed grant agreements with broadband provider partners.
Funds from this grant will be used to expand BRMEMC’s fiber-optic network in the general areas of Shooting Creek, Fires Creek and Qualla Road in Clay County, North Carolina. At project completion approximately 2,000 additional residences and small businesses will have access to BRMEMC’s fiber-optic internet service.
BRMEMC engineers will begin the planning and design of the project very soon with construction beginning a few months later, dependent on material shipments. The project will be constructed in phases so that residents can begin receiving service as sections of the project are completed.
“We are very excited and fortunate to be awarded funding through the GREAT Grant program to get broadband to underserved areas like Shooting Creek, Fires Creek and Qualla Road. This will help us to continue closing the gap in our fiber-optic network and get members in our service territory the reliable high-speed internet service they need,” said Director of Broadband Alex King.
BRMEMC did apply for a second GREAT Grant for the Tusquittee area of Clay County as well as GREAT Grant funding for a large area in Cherokee County, North Carolina. At press time, BRMEMC had not heard if these have been awarded or not, but this announcement is only the first of several rounds of additional GREAT grants expected to be awarded by the State.
To be eligible for a GREAT grant, all internet service provider applicants like BRMEMC must participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides eligible low-income households a $30 per month discount on high-speed internet service, or provide access to a comparable low-cost program. Learn more about the ACP and how to get $30 per month reliable, high-speed internet packages offered by BRMEMC at brmemc.com/acp.
In early 2021, BRMEMC received GREAT Grant funds for the Pine Log area of Clay County. All main line fiber — 50.19 miles — in Pine Log is complete; and over 300 residents are now connected to BRMEMC’s fiber-optic internet service with additional Pine Log households signing up daily.
BRMEMC’s fiber-optic network now serves over 12,500 customers within its service territory and maintains over 990 miles of main line fiber. Fiber expansion areas have been identified for fiscal year 2022-2023 and will be released soon to the membership.
For more on Blue Ridge Mountain EMC, visit brmemc.com or follow BRMEMC on social media.
About Blue Ridge Mountain EMC
Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation is a member-owned electric cooperative headquartered in Young Harris, Georgia, serving nearly 47,000 members in Cherokee and Clay Counties in Western North Carolina, and Towns, Union and Fannin Counties in Northeast Georgia. Organized locally in 1937, BRMEMC has invested well over $280 million in physical infrastructure in its mission to provide reliable electric and broadband services to its members where those services would not otherwise have been available. Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. ###