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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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Broadband in WNC FIber Act Local Government Municipalities NC General Assembly

Fiber Act

2020 – the Past

Legislation on the FIBER NC Act, did not pass legislation largely based on opposition by the larger incumbent telecommunications internet service providers.

What is the FIBER NC Act?

In 2020, the FIBER (Foster Infrastructure for Broadband Expansion and Resources) NC Act (HB 431) was up for vote in the NC legislature; but did not get passed.

It would have eliminated existing state restrictions and increase the authority of local governments to build out broadband infrastructure and lease the fiber to internet service providers (ISP).

It would apply to counties with 4.7 percent or less of households without broadband service (determined by the Federal Communications Commission) or that is home to a major military installation–roughly 70% of counties in the state.

Institute for Emerging Issues

Local Municipalities

How can local municipalities improve high-speed internet? Paul Meyer indicates:

the North Carolina General Assembly should make its first priority upon meeting in January passage of legislation that incorporates the principles of the FIBER NC Act and takes another substantial step in closing our digital divide.

Paul Meyer, Executive Director of the North Carolina League of Municipalities

Meyer, P. (2021, January 3). Broadband would close NC’s digital divide; Big Telecom is blocking it. The Fayetteville Observer; The Fayetteville Observer. https://www.fayobserver.com/story/opinion/columns/guest/2021/01/03/broadband-would-close-ncs-digital-divide-big-telecom-blocking/4087297001/


The WNC Broadband Project is advocating for:

  1. High-speed internet improvements
  2. Eliminating the digital divide
  3. Encouraging economic growth through education, telemedicine, and other broadband business opportunities

Will your home and business be ready for the future needs of broadband?

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Broadband access Broadband funding NC General Assembly Policy

Legislative Priority

Broadband Connectivity

January 13th brings the next North Carolina General Assembly session.

In the Carolina Journal article linked below, it suggested lawmakers should consider the following solutions:

  1. Leave broadband service and investments to private providers.
  2. Streamline permitting, remove unnecessary regulations.
  3. Remove obstacles to building wireless infrastructure on public property and public-rights-of-way, allow lease agreements for pole attachments that encourage developing infrastructure.
  4. Find solutions through open markets and competition, rather than government take-over.
  5. Offer a direct consumer subsidy, much like a voucher, that rural residents in unserved and underserved areas can use to purchase discounted broadband or devices.
  6. Put guardrails around the GREAT grant program to encourage innovation, focus on unserved areas, leave room for advancing technologies, provide grants instead of ongoing funding streams.
  7. Minimize and modernize fees at local and state level to avoid duplicative billing and keep costs low.
  8. Protect jobs and investment by upholding the state’s 2011 Level Playing Field Act, which regulates local government competition from private business.

The Western North Carolina Broadband Project team is advocating for high speed internet improvements. Contact a member of our WNC Broadband Project team with any questions.


Broadband tops list of legislative priorities for upcoming session  – Carolina Journal. (2020, December 28). Carolina Journal. https://www.carolinajournal.com/opinion-article/broadband-tops-list-of-legislative-priorities-for-upcoming-session

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Rep Jake Johnson Intro

Advocating for broadband requires community leadership from many areas, including the North Carolina House of Representatives.

Representative Jake Johnson, born and raised in Western North Carolina; introduces himself and relates personal stories of his Western North Carolina upbringing.

This is the first in a series of video snippets from Rep Jake Johnson.


Disclaimers

The WNC Broadband Project aims to support communities interested in ensuring access to reliable, truly high-speed internet service. 

It develops tools to empower individuals, communities, and area leaders in advocating effectively for their digital needs.  

As a community-supported initiative building on the work of West Next Generation Network (WestNGN), it is not owned or controlled by any affiliate of WestNGN.  

The WNC Broadband Project is also not financed by any corporate entity, as such financing would be inconsistent with the Project’s independent community engagement focus.  

The views, opinions and products of the WNC Broadband Project are the sole responsibility of the Project team and its advisory board, acting in their personal capacity and not in any capacity related to WestNGN, UNC Asheville, or any other WestNGN affiliate.