Governor Cooper today issued Executive Order No. 91 to increase internet access across North Carolina including through a new Governor’s Task Force on Connecting North Carolina. The order directs state government leaders to identify and remove barriers to affordable, high-speed internet access, eliminate the homework gap that results from students not having internet access, and facilitate private-sector deployment of last-mile infrastructure.
“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,” said Governor Cooper.
The creation of the Connecting NC Task Force follows specific recommendations Governor Cooper laid out in his budget proposal, Investments for a Determined North Carolina, to expand access to high-speed internet.
Governor Cooper’s budget includes $35 million for efforts to expand access to broadband internet service. To encourage private providers to bring broadband service to underserved areas, the Governor’s plan allocates $30 million for the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) program. His budget also creates a program to help close the homework gap for students across the state without home internet access by investing $5 million in grants to provide mobile hotspots and devices such as laptops or tablets. Read more about Governor Cooper’s plan to connect North Carolina online.
In addition to these budget recommendations, the Task Force will work to align state agencies’ efforts to remove barriers to high-speed internet. Challenges include how to get service to neighborhoods and homes, known as the last-mile infrastructure.
One of the first steps in carrying out Executive Order 91 will be a policy that makes it easier to add broadband cable during road projects. In July, the N.C. Department of Information Technology and the N.C. Department of Transportation will implement a Dig Once policy, to promote installation of broadband conduit or cables during road construction projects. This will lower construction costs for new broadband, eliminating a major barrier to expanding high-speed internet access to many areas.
Eric Boyette, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Information Technology and State Chief Information Officer, will chair the new task force. Members will include representatives from several state agencies. Governor Cooper has charged the group with making progress on closing gaps in broadband connectivity, making recommendations to promote greater connectivity, and establishing metrics for success.
“Lack of broadband access holds back our economy and keeps people from pursuing opportunities, said Secretary Boyette. “I look forward to helping lead this effort to bring stakeholders to the table to help solve this problem and use technology to improve the lives of North Carolinians.”
The full Executive Order can be read HERE.