Stewarded by Dr. William Sederburg, Chair of the WNC Broadband Project; the WNC broadband leadership team has evolved a new community partner with the University of North Carolina at Asheville, in the Mass Communication Department; a new 2022 course titled Internet in Society.
“By definition, the Internet is a technical system: a communications infrastructure that enables networks around the globe to interconnect. It’s a network of networks.”
Broadband is the high capacity network of the internet.
What do North Carolina leaders have to say about upcoming broadband opportunities?
Ensuring that communities across the state have proper access to broadband and have a deeper understanding of the benefits of adopting digital technologies are essential components of our economic vitality.
Randy Woodson, NC State Chancellor
The new project will focus on development of formal, sustainable digital inclusion plans. IEI will work closely with regional councils of government (COGs) to help lead development of community-level plans to increase broadband adoption rates among all citizens, then provide counties startup funding to begin implementing the plans.
This grant is a terrific opportunity for western North Carolina communities to lead the way nationally in digital inclusion. Research shows that greater adoption of broadband in homes leads to better health outcomes, stronger economic development and better educational opportunity.
Leslie Boney, IEI Director
Broadband access is a key factor for achieving a fulfilled and healthy life, and is critical if we are to realize our vision of creating a Western North Carolina where every generation can live, learn, earn and thrive – with no exceptions.
Programs like BAND-NC help our neighbors and communities overcome the connectivity hurdles presented by geography or poverty to ensure that everyone has equitable access to this vital service.
We look forward to seeing the digital inclusion plans that our communities develop to help their residents take advantage of the opportunities broadband connections provide.
Dr. Susan Mims, Interim CEO of Dogwood Health Trust
With WLOS, Matt Ballance, Chair of North Carolina’s District 11 Democratic Party, Asheville Mayor Ester Manheimer, and the WNC Broadband Project Chair William A. Sederburg… there is continued education on the non-partisan investment of our infrastructure: broadband funding for WNC.
With funding coming, building broadband networks in Western North Carolina will start with improved FCC and North Carolina map data.
President Joe Biden has signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) into law.
The Infrastructure Act provides $65 billion to states, community organizations, and other entities for a range of broadband deployment and digital inclusion activities.
Digital Equity Act of 2021 (DEA)
The DEA appropriates $2.75 billion to be distributed through two primary grant programs:
State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program
Planning grants – funding to states to develop digital equity plans, which are required in order for states to be eligible for the capacity grants.
Capacity grants – designed to provide states with funding to support their digital inclusion priorities, strategies, and initiatives.
The DEA appropriates $60 million in planning grants, which are to be awarded to states to develop State Digital Equity Plans.
The Act allocates an additional $1.44 billion over five years for states to implement and oversee their respective State Digital Equity Plans.
Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program
The Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program awards grants to eligible entities, including but not limited to local governments, nonprofits, and community anchor institutions.
This program is appropriated $1.25 billion over five years.
The federal agencies, like the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), will now begin designing rules and grant programs to distribute the funds, which could take many months in some cases. As such, we may not see any broadband funds from the IIJA until fall 2022.
Amy Huffman’s suggestion for the WNC Broadband Project in the article linked below: celebrate, breathe, plan, and engage.
When Land-of-Sky, WestNGN Broadband, and the WNC Broadband Project team identified and starting working in broadband; we had dreams of getting everyone in Western North Carolina connected.
Over the years we’ve had wins that helped keep us motivated, but with limited resources we moved slowly towards our goals. It is now clear that likely upcoming changes to policy, programs, and funding are going to be giant disrupters to how we move forward broadband issues in the region.
We’ve been on pins and needles waiting on answers on how these changes will work in WNC, and we’re looking locally and the state to help fill in the learning gaps.
One thing that is clear- in order to get everyone connected we’re going to need to deepen our relationship with partners.
Virtual Event Agenda
Introduction to Nate Denny, the new Deputy Secretary of Broadband and Digital Inclusion
NC Department of Information Technology Staff
First draft unveiling of the region’s digital inclusion plan from Land of Sky
Stacey Hughes from Dogwood Health Trust
Sara Nichols & Paul Moon from the Land-of-Sky Regional Council of Governments
More broadband leaders
We hope you can join us virtually July 29th, 2021 from 10-11:30 EST to get updates from leaders on how we CONNECT WNC.
Closing the digital divide in North Carolina can only happen with collaboration from:
Regional Councils of Governments
The WNC Broadband Project and the Digital Literacy Network are happy to hear this announcement from Governor Roy Cooper.
“The pandemic showed us more than ever the importance of digital equity in North Carolina,” said Gov. Cooper. “Creating the Office of Digital Equity and Literacy will enable us to accelerate the critical work of bringing all North Carolinians up to speed with the digital society so they can live more equitable, prosperous, educated and healthier lives.”
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper
NC Office of Digital Equity and Literacy
The office of Digital Equity and Literacy will execute Gov. Cooper’s plan to expand digital literacy offerings and partnerships across North Carolina, as well as lead the Digital Equity and Inclusion Collaborative and promote the NC Digital Inclusion Playbook for local municipalities.
The reality, the needed broadband infrastructure to reach all homes; is not in Buncombe County and other Western North Carolina communities; and our local government can’t currently build and lease the infrastructure to providers. Could Senate Bill 689 pass to allow local governments to help?
Love, Wells and others hoping to tap the arriving federal aid are watching various legislative proposals, especially Senate Bill 689, which would allow local governments to build the infrastructure and lease it to providers. The bill would also allow the use of grants, such as the rescue plan.
In the mountains with low populations density and a low customer count, like when rural electrification was implemented; our state needs to allow local governments to create the needed infrastructure where it is geographically too expensive to build broadband networks.