NC IT Roadmap - Broadband

“In today’s schools and workplaces, high-speed internet is not optional. Too many North Carolinians lack internet access they need to apply for jobs, do homework or run a small business. We must address this digital divide to give every community in North Carolina an equal opportunity to thrive using today’s technology.”

- Governor Cooper

The internet represents a fundamental shift in how we gather information, connect with one another, and conduct our day-to-day lives. Access to the internet drives economic development, is an essential component to improving public safety and public health, and is an absolute necessity in and outside K-12 classrooms and for the 21st century world of online communications, entertainment and information. Without a broadband connection, citizens in rural and otherwise underserved communities are unable to fully utilize telemedicine, farmers are unable to leverage precision agriculture, businesses are unable to participate in online commerce, and millions of students struggle to keep up with their assignments. 

“Broadband access is a must for economic success in our rural communities. We have already seen how access to high-speed internet has allowed business in rural areas to thrive. We cannot deprive rural North Carolinians of this vital tool for competition in a global marketplace.”

 - Governor Cooper

While North Carolina is ahead of the national average for broadband access, thousands of North Carolinians live in areas that don’t have access and an even larger group of residents cannot afford the technology as it is made available. Ultimately, those who arguably need internet access the most are cut off from an increasingly connected world. 

Working toward an Affordable, High-Speed Internet Connection in Every Household

We are working to ensure that all North Carolinians have access to the high-speed internet that is foundational to life in the digital age. With the help of a taskforce outlined in Executive Order 91, we will work to accomplish this by: 

Administering the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) Program: The GREAT program provides grants to private providers of broadband services to facilitate the deployment of broadband service to unserved areas of the state. The program funds eligible projects in economically distressed Tier One counties. Last year the Department of Information Technology’s Broadband Infrastructure Office received $10 million to administer through this grant program. Governor Cooper has another $30 million in this year’s proposed budget. 

Implementing Dig Once Policies: Providing ready-made buried conduit enables future providers to more easily and cheaply install fiber by threading it through existing conduit. Installing empty conduit, which is relatively inexpensive, during construction projects supports future expansion by substantially lowering the expense of digging for providers. States adopting "dig once" policies have expanded the reach of high-speed internet infrastructure, such as fiber optic cables, benefitting rural and other underserved areas. In addition to lowering up-front costs, these policies would allow the NC Department of Transportation better management of the rights-of-way by reducing the number and scale of excavations when installing telecommunications infrastructure and by designating appropriate pathways with uniformity across regional divisions. 

Addressing the Homework Gap: The homework gap occurs when students are assigned homework requiring access to the internet but don’t have home access. Nationally, 70 percent of teachers assign homework that requires broadband access, but only 33 percent of students have access at home. We are working with local school districts to develop innovative solutions to address this problem, like providing mobile hotspots, laptops, or tablets to students without home internet access. The governor has included $5 million for this critical initiative in his proposed budget.