Wave 7 Communications, which has partnered with the town of Enfield to improve internet access, was awarded more than $150,000 to help continue its work in the town.
The Internet Society announced Wednesday that Wave 7 was one of five recipients which will share $1 million in grant funding to expand broadband access. The funds were part of the Truist Expanding Potential in Communities grant.
The grant program supports broadband initiatives to help alleviate disparities in education, employment and social welfare in the southeastern United States.
The Internet Society will distribute the grants, totaling between $108,000 to $180,000 each to the organizations and entities chosen by an advisory committee of municipal/community networks, and policy and community development experts.
The funds for Wave 7 Communications will help to connect residents of Enfield and outlying rural areas, train digital stewards and provide online learning to residents.
Enfield Town Administrator Tyree Davis said it has been Wave 7’s goal to bring broadband to the town.
About a year ago a relay was put in at the town library so people could get free wireless and one was put in at the town municipal building so there would be a wireless connection during board meetings and presentations, Davis said.
The company has been slowly growing customers in the area, according to Davis.
Among other things, the town administrator said, the grant will allow Wave 7 to put up two more relays — one at a tower at AEL-Span and the other at the Cook Street water tower.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Davis said. “It gives the people in our community the opportunity to have broadband connections and internet for everything from school work to medical mobile and it gives our citizens another option instead of the limited companies we have now with spotty service.”
The Truist Foundation said many communities in those states representing the recipients do not have adequate broadband infrastructure, especially in rural regions, and, when they do, it is often too expensive for many residents.
According to President Biden’s infrastructure plan, in Alabama nearly 17 percent of residents live in areas without broadband infrastructure and nearly one in five do not have internet service. More than half of the state’s residents have only one choice of internet provider. There are similar access and cost barriers in North Carolina and Florida, according to the Biden administration’s state-by-state infrastructure report.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the critical role the Internet plays in our daily lives and the vast number of communities unable to access the internet,” said Lynette Bell, president of the Truist Foundation, which makes strategic investments in nonprofit organizations to help ensure the communities it serves have more opportunities for a better quality of life. “These grant recipients displayed extraordinary commitment and planning in addressing the urgent need to connect their communities and we are proud to support their ongoing efforts to build a sustainable Internet infrastructure.”
Community networks are communications infrastructures built, managed and used by local communities or municipalities and are a sustainable solution to address these connectivity gaps in underserved regions. The Internet Society has a long history of working with communities worldwide to fund, build and train people with the skills needed to run and maintain community networks.
“With the Truist EPIC grant, we are able to support community-driven connectivity solutions to ensure more Americans can access the benefits the internet offers at a time when it’s never been more important,” said Mark Buell, regional vice president for North America at the Internet Society, a global nonprofit promoting the development and use of the internet. “We look forward to working with our new community partners to bring this vital resource to underserved regions.”