NCDIT’s broadband mission has evolved in a huge way in a very short time. When I joined NCDIT in 2017, the Broadband Infrastructure Office was a team of six. The team, then led by Jeff Sural, provided technical support to communities across the state on expanding high-speed internet access and adoption, and a single member of that team – the inimitable Amy Huffman – was focused on digital inclusion work. Governor Cooper had just requested $25 million to fund a new last-mile infrastructure incentive program, and the General Assembly was discussing funding a $10 million pilot. There was no public funding for adoption efforts.
We’ve come a long way in a short time.
The pandemic gave everyone a new appreciation of the work all of you have been doing for years. Broadband access and digital equity are now central to NCDIT’s mission, and thanks to the Biden Administration, Governor Cooper, and the N.C. General Assembly, we now have more than $1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to close the digital divide and are preparing for even more funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
Most importantly, Governor Cooper created a new Office of Digital Equity and Literacy adjacent to the Broadband Infrastructure Office, charged with making sure North Carolinians can afford high-speed internet subscriptions and have the devices and digital skills needed to participate in the modern economy.
I’m thrilled to report that our digital equity team is complete (for now)!
For almost a year, Kiya Edwards has done great work planning ARPA digital equity implementation and preparing the state to seek additional federal and philanthropic funds. She has identified National Governors Association grant funding to help support digital navigator resources, and she’s led our Affordable Connectivity Program outreach. I’m very grateful for Kiya’s efforts and am thrilled that we’ll have a bigger team supporting and building on her work.
Annette Taylor joined our team as the new director of the Office of Digital Equity and Literacy in May. She is leading implementation of Governor Cooper’s $50 million digital equity plan and preparing North Carolina to maximize its share of IIJA digital equity funding. And she is charged with working directly with all of you to build the valuable stakeholder input mechanisms that will help us successfully implement digital equity work. Annette’s experiences building the N.C. Lottery Commission’s minority business participation program and leading community engagement for Congressman G.K. Butterfield show she’s uniquely equipped for these challenges.
I’m glad to announce that Maggie Woods also is joining the Office of Digital Equity and Literacy from N.C. State’s Institute for Emerging Issues, where she built and led the successful BAND-NC grant program supporting county digital inclusion planning. Maggie has shown stellar digital equity leadership for North Carolina and nationally over the last few years, and we’re very fortunate that she’s joined our team.
I’ll soon share more details about the broadband infrastructure team, but today I want to recognize and thank Annette, Kiya, and Maggie for the work they’re doing to build digital equity in North Carolina.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at email@example.com or Annette at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or feedback.Nate Denny, Deputy Secretary of Broadband and Digital Equity