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Orange County Partners with Lumos to Provide Broadband Internet to Rural Communities

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Orange County Partners With Lumos To Provide Broadband Internet To Rural Communities

Orange County has initiated a groundbreaking partnership with Lumos, a leading fiber optic internet provider, to deliver essential broadband services to underserved rural areas. Since the collaboration commenced in 2022 with a substantial $10 million investment from the County’s American Rescue Plan Act funds, approximately 1,500 rural homes and businesses have gained access to high-speed internet.

Lumos, headquartered in High Point, secured this opportunity through a competitive bidding process orchestrated by Orange County, as highlighted by Derek Kelly, Lumos’ vice president of market development. Initially concentrating on the northern region, Lumos is now expanding its reach to encompass the southern parts, with plans for continued expansion through 2025.

Exploring the challenging terrain beyond urban hubs like Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Hillsborough, Orange County faces stark connectivity disparities, primarily due to its rural composition. Derek Kelly emphasized that public funding plays a pivotal role in transforming these rural landscapes into digitally equipped communities reminiscent of suburban areas.

Engaged in meticulous engineering groundwork, Lumos strategized network placements to maximize coverage. Over the past nine months, significant progress has been made in laying down fiber optics infrastructure, enabling nearly 3,000 previously unserved properties to access broadband. Of this figure, 1,500 have officially enrolled in the program.

Michael Kelly, director of collaborative broadband and innovation at the NC Rural Center, underscored the critical importance of internet accessibility in unlocking educational, healthcare, and economic opportunities. Broadband, he contends, is a fundamental utility akin to water and wastewater in rural settings.

Laura Streitfeld, executive director of Preserve Rural Orange, highlighted the longstanding challenges faced by low-density areas in attracting profitable internet providers. She noted that residents, devoid of reliable connectivity, have resorted to costly interim solutions like boosters and hotspots. Streitfeld expressed a sentiment of belatedness in Orange County’s broadband deployment, particularly in the context of heightened remote work and learning demands catalyzed by the pandemic.

Rachel Adams

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