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Corning Optical Communications joins IEI BAND-NC broadband initiative to bridge digital divide

RALEIGH, NC — The Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) announces a new investment from Corning Incorporated to extend digital inclusion grants to communities across North Carolina. The $10,000 contribution will support BAND-NC, a grant program designed to increase the number of North Carolinians with internet in their homes, with the goal of making the state “first in digital inclusion.”

Building a New Digital Economy in NC (BAND-NC), in partnership with the NC Broadband Infrastructure Office (BIO), has supported 29 $5,000 “rapid response community innovation grants” covering 39 counties since the program’s inception, plus a series of workshops led by IEI and BIO to help communities develop digital inclusion plans. Another 30 “implementation” grants of $5,000 each will be awarded in 2021.

“As we move forward through the pandemic, communities are developing creative strategies to get broadband access to those who need it most,” said IEI director Leslie Boney. “This funding from Corning will build on that work, helping set the stage for long-term broadband fixes that make education, work and health care from home possible.”

“Corning is delighted to support initiatives aimed at closing the Digital Divide, because we believe a broadband connection is as essential as electricity, water and gas,” said Michael Bell, senior vice president and general manager of Corning’s Optical Communications business. “We’re especially proud to join BAND-NC in its work to advance digital inclusion in North Carolina — where Corning’s highly skilled workforce manufactures the optical fiber and cable that bring broadband connections to life.”

IEI announced BAND-NC at its Emerging Issues Forum, ReCONNECT to Technological Opportunity, in February 2020. The program outlined four challenges communities have in including all families in broadband services:

  • Access—getting broadband into homes
  • Subscriptions—helping families afford broadband services. In all, just 59% of North Carolina families subscribe to broadband services
  • Devices—ensuring that children and adults have the equipment they need to take classes, work from home, or access health care
  • Technical assistance—assisting families in learning how to effectively use high-speed access

BAND-NC asks communities to develop solutions that address each of these issues. Data from the NC Broadband Infrastructure Office shows wide disparities in adoption of broadband services, with both a rural-urban and an income divide. The ultimate goal of the program is to make North Carolina the first state in the nation where every county has a digital inclusion plan in place.

As part of the BAND-NC effort, IEI has already partnered with the North Carolina Broadband Infrastructure Office, the NC Electric Cooperatives, Roanoke Electric Cooperative, the Duke Energy Foundation, John M. Belk Endowment, and ATMC.

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About Institute for Emerging Issues
The Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) at North Carolina State University is a nonpartisan public policy organization focused on the state’s vibrancy and economic competitiveness. Since 1986, the Emerging Issues Forum has attracted leaders in business, education and public policy to discuss issues with profound implications for North Carolina’s future prosperity. For more than three decades, the Forum has helped catalyze the policy reforms, public investments and other proactive responses required to build an enduring capacity for progress in North Carolina.

About Corning Incorporated
Corning ( is one of the world’s leading innovators in materials science, with a 169-year track record of life-changing inventions. Corning applies its unparalleled expertise in glass science, ceramic science, and optical physics along with its deep manufacturing and engineering capabilities to develop category-defining products that transform industries and enhance people’s lives. Corning succeeds through sustained investment in RD&E, a unique combination of material and process innovation, and deep, trust-based relationships with customers who are global leaders in their industries. Corning’s capabilities are versatile and synergistic, which allows the company to evolve to meet changing market needs, while also helping our customers capture new opportunities in dynamic industries. Today, Corning’s markets include optical communications, mobile consumer electronics, display, automotive, and life sciences.