Today, Representatives Dean Arp (R-Union), Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth), Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), and Jake Johnson (R-Polk) filed House Bill 947
, "The G.R.E.A.T. Broadband Expansion Act," which allocates over $750 million to connect all 100 counties in North Carolina to broadband internet access. The bill has the potential to leverage over $1 billion between state and local funding.
"This is truly an unprecedented investment and the most comprehensive approach yet in our efforts to expand broadband in North Carolina,"
said Rep. Arp. "We have made incredible strides in improving broadband connectivity throughout the state. This bill will build on those successes and help ensure all North Carolinians have access to reliable internet service."
Under the newly established Completing Access to Broadband (CAB) program, House Bill 947 allocates $400 million in grants that will be made available to every county in the state to help close "broadband gaps."
House Bill 947 also provides $340 million for the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (G.R.E.A.T.) program, which has become a national model for deploying broadband to unserved and underserved areas.
Additionally, the legislation incentives municipalities and counties to partner with the state to use their share of federal American Rescue Plan dollars to expand broadband infrastructure.
Rep. Lambeth, said, "North Carolina has made great progress investing in broadband access but more needs to be done. This initiative invests significant new funds that will continue our commitment to all areas of the state to improve access to educational opportunities, expand healthcare and strategically make investments in our people and infrastructure. This is a bold move, but worth the investment."
Lastly, the legislation distributes $12 million for satellite and fixed wireless grants to be used to reimburse consumers for the costs associated with installing an antenna and other hardware to receive internet signal. This will allow providers and consumers to capitalize on new satellite broadband internet systems.
"Innovative technology, like SpaceX and its Starlink satellite-based internet service, have the opportunity to expand broadband to new areas in our state,"
said Rep. Saine. "This bill will help capitalize on these new satellite-based services and provide a new tool in our efforts to expand internet connectivity to more North Carolinians."
Rep. Jake Johnson, added, "This bill will go a long way in making sure internet access gets to the areas that need it most. I am proud to support this historic effort to close the digital divide and address an issue that is vital for rural communities."