New Grants Make Public Internet Access Available for Many Across the Region

It’s no secret that broadband connectivity is a challenge in western North Carolina, directly affecting the education system. But the Southwestern Commission is working with our regional partners to alleviate some of those challenges.

In the last quarter of 2021, more than $180,000 was distributed across project sites in six counties for public internet access. The Student Connect Grant, awarded to the Commission by the State of North Carolina, funded projects that included more public WiFi hotspots, a lending library for laptops, and Chromebooks for local students.

“The grant enabled Graham County Schools to replace many obsolete Chromebooks for students at all grade levels, so those dollars went straight into the hands of the students,” says Superintendent Angie Knight. “Having a state-of-the-art device during this crucial time of remote learning allows our students to navigate a world of virtual instruction and obtain skills that will afford them opportunities for success in their future.”

A full list of project awards and locations:

  • Clay County: $55,000 to provide 55 Chromebooks to students who have trouble accessing technology and expand broadband capabilities to the Clay County Recreational Park.
  • Graham County Government: $29,874 to provide Chromebooks to Graham County Schools for distribution to students.
  • Haywood Community College: $9,459 to purchase additional laptops and hotspots for the student lending library.
  • Jackson County Economic Development: $49,950 to put free, public WiFi in downtown Sylva for use as a hotspot for students and for visitors to have online accessibility.
  • Macon County: $19,950 to create public community hotspots at two community centers and the Sky Valley-Scaley Mountain Volunteer Fire and Rescue facility, all in south Macon County.
  • Swain County: $5,989 to add a community hotspot at Swain County Recreational Park.