College of The Albemarle has been awarded nearly $600,000 by the N.C. Community College System to upgrade its internet infrastructure and improve its network security.

The State Board of Community Colleges recently approved the use of COVID-19 Recovery Act funds to improve network security and infrastructure for 20 colleges that serve students in the most rural and economically challenged parts of the state.

COA President Jack Bagwell told members of the Board of Trustees Finance Committee Tuesday the funding is intended to improve students’ access to online classes given their increased reliance on virtual instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One other reason for the funding is the rising concern about network security following several ransomware attacks at community colleges in the state.

“Community colleges across the nation have been a target,” Bagwell said.

Wayman White, COA’s director of management information services, said the upgrades will improve wireless service for students, faculty and staff. All parking lots on every COA campus will have wireless access, he said.

“That’s going to help with our students,” White said.

COA also will get about $300,000 of new cable installed. The firewall for the college’s network will be replaced at a cost of about $130,000, providing excellent network security, he said.

Trustee Robert Pippen said it’s a plus that COA is getting the money now since many of the upgrades are things the college would have to do in a few years anyway.

Bagwell said there are still other broadband upgrades the college will need to budget for. College officials estimate the cost of those upgrades at $258,000.

Wayman White, COA’s director of management information services, said 20 community colleges in North Carolina received money for equipment, network security, and fiber-optic cable.


The upgrades will improve wireless service for students, faculty and staff, he said. All parking lots on every COA campus will have wireless access.

“That’s going to help with our students,” White said.

Each campus also will get new cable installed, he said.

The total value of cable that will be provided to COA is about $300,000, according to White.

The firewall for the college’s network will be replaced at a cost of about $130,000, providing excellent network security, he said.

“That is going to be a big help to the college,” White said.

COA Board of Trustees Chairwoman Patti Kersey said she’s glad to see the funding made available to the college.

“I always look for a silver lining and the rural broadband funding is definitely that,” she said.

Trustee Robert Pippen said it’s a plus that COA is getting the money now since many of the upgrades are things the college would have to do in a few years anyway.

Bagwell said there are still other broadband upgrades the college will need to budget for. College officials estimate the cost of those upgrades at $258,000. Officials are hopeful funding can be found to help with some of the cost.