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Broadband access Dogwood Trust Economic Development Education Employment

Critical Broadband Access

Learn from Lessons

It takes partnerships and collaboration to maintain and improve the health, education, and economic development of our Western North Carolina communities.

We illuminated just how critical broadband access is for learning, working or even supplying a family in quarantine. 

Susan Mims, Interim CEO at the Dogwood Health Trust, April 30, 2021 Newsletter

What is the pathway to future Western North Carolina growth?

High speed internet or broadband and fiber optics will have a critical role!

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Advocacy Broadband access Broadband funding Broadband in WNC Digital Inclusion Digital Literacy House Bill Municipalities NC General Assembly Senate Bill

2021 Broadband State Legislation

North Carolina Broadband 2021 Legislation

HB 79
Passed House 2/24/21

Requires the state board of education to maintain a digital learning dashboard updated annually by public school units and requires recommendations to the joint legislative education oversight committee based on information on student digital learning access during COVID-19.

Education and Schools and Rural and Underserved

HB 196
Signed by governor 3/11/21, Chapter 3
SB 172

Makes modifications to COVID-19 relief legislation and provides additional appropriations for the expenditure of federal COVID-19 pandemic relief funds., includes student connectivity funds for complimentary internet service.

Education and Schools, Funding and Rural and Underserved

HB 289
Passed House 4/1/21

Appropriates funds to the department of information technology for the preparation of statewide broadband maps and establishes the department as the sole source of broadband mapping for state agencies.

Funding and Mapping

HB 384

Fosters infrastructure for broadband expansion and resources in North Carolina by authorizing counties and cities to install and lease broadband infrastructure to increase adequate broadband services to attract investment in local economies, provide for educational and career opportunities, modernize farming technologies, and to provide for improved health care.

Infrastructure

HB 476

Enacts the North Carolina Broadband Consumer Protection Act to provide oversight of broadband service by the North Carolina utilities commission.

Consumer Relations and Governance

SB 517

Appropriates funds to the department of information technology for the preparation of statewide broadband maps and to establish the department as the sole source of broadband mapping for state agencies; relieves regulatory burdens to expedite broadband expansion; allows for use of existing easements for broadband expansion; expands distribution of state surplus computers and computer hardware for nonprofits; allows local government leasing of existing broadband infrastructure; expands funding for G.R.E.A.T. program broadband grants; and provides stopgap internet access for classroom access, health care access, and job creation.

Education and Schools, Funding, Infrastructure, Mapping and Rural and Underserved

SB 523

Establishes the North Carolina broadband assistance program to provide funds to eligible low-income families to help make broadband access more affordable.

Rural and Underserved

SB 547

Fosters infrastructure for broadband expansion and resources in North Carolina by authorizing counties and cities to build and lease facilities and equipment of broadband services to increase adequate broadband services in rural areas of the state where the need for broadband is great due to many factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

Municipal and Rural and Underserved

SB 642

Appropriates funds to the technology and data institute to operate a pilot program to expand high-speed internet access to students of low-income families in central North Carolina.

Funding, High Speed and Rural and Underserved

SB 689

Facilitates the expansion of broadband service in unserved areas of the state by ensuring timely and nondiscriminatory access to municipal and electric membership cooperative utility poles, ducts, and conduits at just and reasonable rates; authorizes counties to provide grants to high-speed internet access service providers and to build facilities and equipment of a broadband service and to levy taxes for those purposes; further defines the term “city utility pole”; prohibits certain fees for the collocation of small wireless facilities; and makes related changes.

Funding, High Speed, Infrastructure, Rural and Underserved and Taxes


Broadband 2021 Legislation. (2021). Ncsl.org. https://www.ncsl.org/research/telecommunications-and-information-technology/broadband-2021-legislation.aspx

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Advocacy Broadband access Broadband in WNC Digital Inclusion Economic Development Education FCC William Sederburg

Broadband Future in WNC

by Dr. William Sederburg

Western North Carolina Broadband Project Chair Dr. William Sederburg talks about broadband and the situation of broadband maps from the FCC and the actual situation of broadband service as detailed in his letter to the FCC.

WNC Broadband Future – Dr. Sederburg

YouTube Video Outline

00:00 – Organized through University of North Carolina Asheville
01:36 – Former FCC Officials Stagg Newman & Greg Voyt in WNC
02:21 – FCC Presentation
03:00 – WNC Broadband Project’s start
04:42 – ‘Future Proof’ Broadband
06:11 – ‘Lack of broadband infrastructure is NOT just a rural problem’
07:19 – Buncombe County Map – No Services offered in red, white areas do not have adequate broadband
08:21 – Conclusion, Federal policy changes, WNC short-changed services, WNCBP offer to help FCC with maps (see the letter below)

Because broadband is a critical need for economic growth, education, tele-health, and more; the WNC Broadband Project is here to advocate for broadband improvements for our communities.

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Asheville Basics Broadband access Buncombe Digital Literacy Free WiFi Hotspot Internet Library Low-income Access

Digital Options

Pack Library in Downtown Asheville

Located at 67 Haywood Street, the Pack Library and is the main branch in the Buncombe County Public Library System.

The first Pack Library was built and named for George Willis Pack in 1911.

This newer, 56,000-square foot facility was built in 1978 and renovated in 2012.

Digital Resources

It includes digital resources including:

  • Desktop Computer Access in the building
  • Popular resources
    • NC Live a statewide library cooperative, supporting 200+ public and academic libraries across North Carolina
    • NC Digital Library powered by OverDrive and Kindle software
    • Story Line and BiblioBoard hybrid software dedicated to keeping libraries at the forefront of their communities in an increasingly digital age. BiblioLabs offers patrons unlimited, multi-user access through BiblioBoard, the PatronsFirst® digital library, and provides tools that empower libraries to thrive as influential centers for creative community engagement.
    • Tax Help
  • WiFi for your own smartphone, tablet, or laptop
  • Online events by age and by type
  • Printing & Copying

What is your favorite digital resource at Buncombe County libraries; and why?


Libraries – Pack Memorial. Buncombecounty.org. https://www.buncombecounty.org/governing/depts/library/branch-locations/pack-memorial.aspx

Categories
Broadband access Broadband in WNC Community Development Digital Divide Digital Inclusion Economic Development Education Gigabit NTCA Real Estate Shirley Bloomfield

WFH

Working From Home

How will the COVID-19 epidemic change the relationship from working in an office to working from home (WFH)?

How will WFH alter Asheville?

If 1/3 of Americans work from home, it changes transportation planning in a huge way.

Road Guy Rob

Transportation

In Buncombe County, we know the bottlenecks and high capacity of traffic on I-240, I-40, and I-26 as major interstates connect and bring-in or out employees. If work from home become permanent, the commuting demand shifts from vehicular traffic to broadband traffic.

Office Space

Yes, essential worker in hospitality, grocery stores, and other service industries in WNC will see needed transportation continue; but should an organization spend an enormous amount of money at their headquarter office to seat employees that cost $2.00 or more a square foot per month?

Land Use

How does the shift of working in an office to WFH effect home costs? Anyplace that has healthy broadband could become the new employment location. You don’t have to commute to work and there will be a ‘flight’ to smaller communities. Available land in the outskirts of WNC will become attractive home and workplaces.

Prerequisite

In the future there will be unprecedented availability of gigabit broadband which is available through fiber networks.

Urban cities can have 130 subscribers per mile. Rural communities can have 6-7 subscribers per mile. Fiber doesn’t get any cheaper based on where you are putting it in the ground. Yet in rural America it is even more important to bridge the digital divides.

Shirley Bloomfield, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association CEO (Human Resource office in Biltmore Park)

The Big Picture

America and WNC is returning to a decentralized economy. The world economy is replacing the suburb commutes with the internet at the speed of light. Communtable work distances in WNC is limitless. Additionally, our carbon footprint will be reduced. Political and socioeconomic landscapes will change. What will be the role of mass transportation in WNC?

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Advocacy Broadband access Broadband as a Utility Broadband in WNC Community Development Digital Divide Digital Equity Economic Development

Bridging A Digital Divide

High speed internet should be available to everybody in Western North Carolina.

It is critical to economic opportunity, job creation, education, telehealth, and civic engagement.

Broadband Call-To-Action

Your call-to-action should be:

  1. Advocate for the timeless investment of fiber to replace copper and cable. It is likely the power company owns your neighborhood telephone poles and a right-of way is needed.
  2. Steward the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program to your network. A Federal Subsidy of up to $50 per month is available. Additionally, a one time $100 per household for hardware.
  3. Provide the NC Broadband Office with information about the lack of dependable broadband at your location or a friend or neighbor.

Bridging The Digital Divide For All Americans. Federal Communications Commission. https://www.fcc.gov/about-fcc/fcc-initiatives/bridging-digital-divide-all-americans

Categories
Affordability Broadband in WNC Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB)

EBB

Emergency Broadband Benefit

During the pandemic, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is helping households struggling to pay for internet with the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program.

The FCC is also looking to mobilize organizations to help share important consumer information about the Emergency Broadband Benefit that will provide a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on Tribal lands.

Additionally, eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute $10-$50 toward the purchase price.

Learn More

Emergency Broadband Benefit. (2021, February 11). Federal Communications Commission.

https://www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit


‌The Western North Carolina Broadband Project is advocating for all households in WNC to get high speed internet.

Please help the FCC and the WNCBP mobilize organizations to support sharing consumer information about the Emergency Broadband Benefit.

Categories
Broadband access Broadband in WNC Henderson Internet Internet Library WiFi WiFi

Hendersonville Library Internet

Broadband is Available at the Henderson County Library

Above are photographs I took on a journey to the Hendersonville Public Library. As a resident of Asheville (without a vehicle), I made a the journey with an Asheville electric bus ride to the airport and transferred to the Apple Country Transit. The Apple Country bus ride took me to Downtown Hendersonville; and then I took a short ~3 block walk to the Henderson County Public Library at 301 North Washington St.

I was enlightened to find the library open and that free internet resources were available indoors.

Computer Help and a Printer

The Hendersonville Library has a Technology Desk with staffing available to assist with your connectivity and basic tech inquiries. Color and black & white printing is also available for a nominal fee.

Learn more about the Henderson County Public Library hours and resources at the website below.

Computers and Internet | Henderson County North Carolina. (2021). Hendersoncountync.gov. https://www.hendersoncountync.gov/library/page/computers-and-internet


The Western North Carolina Broadband Project provides advocacy and educational resources to assist WNC in minimizing the digital divide.

Plan Your Journey

Plan your library journey with resources that are available online:

Questions or comments can be emailed to marc@wncbroadband.org

Categories
Affordability Broadband funding Digital Divide Federal Efforts Low-income Access

Affordable Internet for All

Emergency Broadband Benefit

In the coronavirus relief broadband bill ‘Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act’ individuals can receive a subsidy to help minimize the digital divide.

The bill offers a $50 monthly discount for broadband services and a one-time discount of up to $100 for a computer or tablet purchased through a participating provider (one discount per eligible household).


Learn More

Snider, M. (2021, March 11). Coronavirus relief measure could net you $50 toward your broadband bill, help erase the digital divide. USA TODAY; USA TODAY. https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2021/03/11/discount-broadband-internet-congress-tackles-digital-divide/6940680002/

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Broadband access Broadband in WNC Digital Inclusion Education Jackson County Western Carolina University

Broadband & Higher Ed

Impact of COVID on Broadband for a Higher Education Institution

In the delivery of remote or hybrid instruction, as we’ve experienced over the past year, there are two key locations that need to be connected: the professor and the student. The connection is provided via broadband. With high speed connections and reliability, learning is enabled. It is absolutely critical for success.

For a university with faculty and students located in more rural areas of North Carolina and in areas underserved with respect to broadband, this can be a significant problem; and in a lot of cases there may only be one internet service provider, if even available. In fact, from a technology perspective, this was probably the number one item expressed by both faculty and students. We experienced some faculty needing to come to campus only because they had poor internet connectivity, reliability, or bandwidth at home. A significant number of students experienced the same situation and we heard instances of students driving to a nearby McDonalds to use their wireless from the parking lot to access learning management systems or Zoom sessions. Locally, some students came to campus to use the university’s outdoor WiFi. Here in the mountains, cellular is not usually an effective solution due to the terrain, and in fact for many, cellular connectivity is actually being delivered over their broadband connection; so without broadband there is no cellular coverage. Without quality broadband professors can’t teach and students are not able to learn and engage.

In addition to the faculty and students, the university runs via its staff employees. Areas include facilities, finance, purchasing, information technology, campus services, fundraising, admissions, tutoring, academic services, research, and more. These services and functions need to remain operational. Staff need to be able to access systems, payroll, remotely answer phones, meet in teams, and provide services. Working remotely, as most staff was being asked to do, requires quality broadband. Without it a person cannot do their work, provide necessary functions, or assist faculty, students, or other staff.

Just before the pandemic hit, WCU Power and Morris Broadband were very close to completing the implementation of high speed broadband service to the WCU Power service area. The service area encompasses a significant number of faculty, staff, and students that live near the university. Many have said they are so thankful that the new broadband service was in place — because it is what enabled them to successfully teach, work, and study remotely. Without it, they would have either not be able to work or would only have been able to do so being present on campus — significantly impacting university operations.


Craig Fowler, Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Western Carolina University