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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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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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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
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Affordability Broadband access Digital Inclusion Fiber Local Government Low-income Access Sandy Mush Terri Wells Wireless

Imperative Internet

Fiber Broadband At the Sandy Mush Community Center

Terri Wells talks about how fiber broadband provides tools to minimize a #digitaldivide at the Sandy Mush Community Center.

Fiber and broadband connectivity are imperative for digital inclusion in our communities.

Bringing high-speed, free internet to the Sandy Mush Community Center has been a life-changer.

Terri Wells

A community center is hub that can provide assistance for education, telehealth, employment, entertainment, and more.

More About SMCC WiFi, Internet

Sandy Mush Community Center Website > WiFi Connection

Fiber Optics – the Timeless Investment

Support the Western North Carolina Broadband Project.

Our WNCBP Advisory Team, including Terri Wells; are advocating for the timeless investment of fiber optics in our communities.

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ART Bus Asheville Broadband access Digital Equity Digital Inclusion Mobile Data

ART Bus Station WiFi

As a regular City of Asheville bus rider, Marc Czarnecki is happy to see that the ART (Asheville Redefines Transit) bus station now has free public Wi-Fi. Riding the bus now really requires an individual to check the schedule frequently. There are multiple different scheduling tools available online for planning your bus trip departure time, which bus to get on, arrival time, etc.

Some of Marc’s smartphone apps to assist in effectively riding the ART bus public transportation include the following. They can now be downloaded at the bus station.


ART Website Transit Maps and Schedules

City of Asheville ART Transit Maps and Schedules

Transit Mobile App

Transitapp.com

Google Maps

Google Maps – Transit & Food – App Store

FCC Speedtest Results

When any individual travels, their time is important. Understanding how internet the ART Bus Station public Wi-Fi is listed below with a screen shot of the speedtest results using the FCC Speedtest App.

If you are in a hurry at the Asheville ART Bus Station; I would not consider the above results acceptable to quickly download apps and check bus statuses.

Charge Your Phone

The newly updated interior bus lobby does have a few plugs to charge your mobile device if needed.

Helpful WNC Broadband Links

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Advocacy Broadband funding Digital Inclusion Economic Development Lamar Owen PARI Transylvania

Broadband as a Rural Utility

REA Brought Electricity to Rural America

The availability of power can be taken for granted. As Lamar Owen, Chief Technology Officer at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) relates to the Rural Electrification Act (REA).

The Rural Electrification Act of 1936, enacted on May 20, 1936, provided federal loans for the installation of electrical distribution systems to serve isolated rural areas of the United States.

The funding was channeled through cooperative electric power companies, hundreds of which still exist today.[1] These member-owned cooperatives purchased power on a wholesale basis and distributed it using their own network of transmission and distribution lines. The Rural Electrification Act was also an attempt made by FDR’s New Deal to deal with high unemployment.

Wikipedia

Rural Broadband Implementation Act

Shouldn’t broadband also become something similar to REA?

A Rural Broadband Implementation Act?

Lamar Owen discusses the topic and how it relates to rural and mountainous Transylvania County, NC in the video below.

Broadband as a Utility in Rural America

Broadband at PARI Series

PARI Website

https://www.pari.edu/

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Broadband access Broadband in WNC Community Development Devices Digital Divide Digital Inclusion

Bridging the Digital Divide

IEI BAND-NC Broadband Initiative

First in Digital Inclusion

While Western North Carolina continues to strive for opportunities to maximize our broadband growth, the Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI), BAND-NC, and NC Broadband Infrastructure Office have a goal of increasing the number of North Carolinians with internet in their homes, making NC “first in digital inclusion.”

Community Challenges

The program outlined four challenges communities have in including all families in broadband services:

  1. Access—getting broadband into homes
  2. Subscriptions—helping families afford broadband services. In all, just 59% of North Carolina families subscribe to broadband services
  3. Devices—ensuring that children and adults have the equipment they need to take classes, work from home, or access health care
  4. 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.

Join the WNC Broadband Initiative in making Western North Carolina more ‘digitally inclusive.’


Corning Optical Communications joins IEI BAND-NC broadband initiative to bridge digital divide. (2021, January 22). Institute for Emerging Issues. https://iei.ncsu.edu/2021/corning-optical-communications-joins-iei-band-nc-broadband-initiative-to-bridge-digital-divide/

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Digital Equity Digital Inclusion Event

WNC Digital Inclusion Planning Summit

When: January 13th from 10:00 – 12:00 p.m.

Learn about what’s going on in your county, state, country, and how you can be a part of a more digitally equitable North Carolina.

We will start the planning at this event, so share with all your interested partners in digital equity.

Contact Sara Nichols at sara@landofsky.org for more information.

Digital Inclusion Event Registration

This project is made possible by the generous support of BAND-NC Institute for Emerging Issues.

BAND-NC, Building a New Digital Economy in North Carolina

Also See

Digital Inclusion DANCE
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Advocacy Broadband access Broadband in WNC Digital Divide Digital Inclusion Digital Inequality Economic Development Education

Homework Gap

Now a Learning Gap In Rural America

I am already shocked. As a father of two digitally-connected children, I know first hand of the significant value of having broadband available. The digital value is having computers available, the knowledge of how to apply computers, with broadband being available on demand, to engage with society for knowledge, communication, health, and more.

Additionally, having volunteered at several area schools and community centers, I see the digital divide. If students don’t have broadband available at home, immediately the student is disconnected from our digital world of learning opportunities.

The pandemic has made getting computers and internet connections to households with school-age children a priority. The “homework gap” is sizable. Before the pandemic, some 16.9 million children under the age of 18 lived in households without wireline internet service and 7.3 million live in homes without a desktop, laptop, or tablet computer. What was a homework gap is now a learning gap.

John B. Horrigan

Digital Tools & Learning. (2020, December 10). Benton Foundation. https://www.benton.org/blog/digital-tools-learning

Also See


The author of this article, Marc Czarnecki; helps to minimize the rural divide in America by supporting the WNC Broadband Project.

The WNC Broadband Team advocates for the necessary broadband improvements for our #digitallives.