KENANSVILLE — Duplin County Libraries recently won a $5,000 grant from ATMC that will be used to help the county create a digital inclusion plan that can be used to help expand broadband access, availability, and adoption throughout the county.

The digital inclusion plan will be helpful in attracting internet service providers that can apply for state and federal broadband grants to help expand high-speed internet in unserved and underserved areas.

“We are so grateful for this grant from ATMC and BAND-NC that will allow our team to focus on digital inclusion efforts in Duplin County,” said Laura Jones, Library Director for Duplin County. “Our goal is to create a plan that pulls together county resources and builds a case for more broadband expansion, especially in the unserved and underserved rural areas of the county.”

Last year, ATMC won two grants totalling $2.5 million dollars through the NC GREAT grant program to expand high-speed internet to unserved and underserved residents and businesses in Duplin County. Through these grants, as well as a matching investment from ATMC, the cooperative will be able to serve more than 1,000 homes in communities east and west of Magnolia, Rose Hill and Teachey with fiber optic services.

“As we work to expand our services in Duplin County through the NC GREAT grant program, we understand the importance of partnering with community stakeholders to make sure all areas of digital inclusion are addressed,” commented Keith Holden, ATMC CEO. “We are proud to help support this BAND-NC grant that will allow the county to pull together resources and holistically address the broadband issues in Duplin County.”

The BAND-NC program was created by the Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) in partnership with the NC Broadband Infrastructure Office (BIO), the John M. Belk Endowment, Duke Energy Foundation, Atlantic Telephone Membership Corporation (ATMC), Roanoke Electric Cooperative and the North Carolina Electric Cooperatives. The program is administered by the IEI office at NC State University and is working to help bridge the digital divide in areas of need throughout the state.

Duplin County plans to launch the broadband survey online and by mail before the end of the summer. All residents and businesses are encouraged to participate in the survey.

For more information about the survey or digital inclusion plan in Duplin County, contact Laura Jones at 910-296-2117. For more information on the BAND- NC grant program, visit www.iei.ncsu.edu/band-nc.

Editor’s Note: This article was contributed by ATMC. ATMC is a member-owned cooperative providing a multitude of communications services and is the largest communications cooperative in North Carolina and one of the largest in the country.

The Duplin Times may be reached at duplinnews@ncweeklies.com