Fayetteville State receives $5 million to help bridge the Sandhills' digital divide

Monique John Image
Saturday, March 4, 2023
Fayetteville State receives $5 million to help bridge digital divide
Major funding is coming to Fayetteville State University to help bridge the digital divide.

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Major funding is coming to Fayetteville State University to help bridge the digital divide, supporting underprivileged people stuck without or with little access to reliable-high speed internet and digital technology.

The federal government is giving Fayetteville State $5 million to widen access to broadband internet and remote learning. It will also go towards STEM, entrepreneurship and cybersecurity skills among students and small businesses in the area.

"For many of our businesses if they want to grow, many of our entrepreneurs if they want to expand, that technology piece is one that we have to shore up," said Chancellor Darrell T. Allison of Fayetteville State.

Dr. Tamara Bryant, the Fayetteville Cumberland Regional Entrepreneurial Business Hub Director, listed the issues young professionals and small businesses can face when not having sufficient digital access.

"Some of those challenges (are) not being able to have the adequate resources to be able to execute government contracts, not being able to have that adequate staffing as well as the efficiencies in their operations to be able to effectively compete for those contracts," Bryant said. "(H)elping these students, working with them to build their technology infrastructure, will allow them to compete competitively in this federal market."

The Biden Administration's Internet for All Initiative is driving financial aid for the university to generate career opportunities and economic growth through the effort. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration reports at least 18,000 households surrounding the university are in need of internet access. Many FSU students come from these types of homes.

"Students have had hiccups and hurdles when it comes to Internet access. Sometimes the Internet may not be as efficient as it needs to be. So, a lot of times students are doing their homework on iPhones and iPads and things like that," said Jamie Davis, a graduate assistant at FSU.

The university says it will begin using the funds this summer to help small businesses improve their online presence this summer while creating internships for students. There will also be more options for interactive learning and remote instruction, and students in need will be given laptops and hotspots.