Since the passage of the first Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (G.R.E.A.T.) broadband legislation in 2018, North Carolina has been making progress toward filling in access gaps with about $64 million allocated to projects to date.
Broadband is considered an essential infrastructure now more than ever. Over the past year, it has become more clear than ever that broadband access is just as important in peoples’ lives as roads, schools, stores, and places of work.
Through the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress back in March, hundreds of millions of federal dollars have been made available to the General Assembly to be appropriated where it sees fit, within certain guidelines.
Today’s passage of House Bill 947: The G.R.E.A.T. Broadband Expansion Act of 2021, marks a great day for all North Carolinians. This bill provides over $750 million of the American Rescue Plan funds for grants that will connect all of North Carolina to high-speed internet access.
This legislation will accomplish this by, first, expanding access to the original G.R.E.A.T. program, under which an internet provider applies for grant funding from the state for projects in unserved or underserved rural areas.
Secondly, it creates a new program, the Completing Access to Broadband program or CAB. This would let the counties take the lead in determining where the broadband access gaps are, and then issue a request for proposals for a provider to fill in the gap.
The CAB program will be open to all 100 counties, and they will receive assistance from the North Carolina Department of Information Technology/Broadband Infrastructure Office (NCDIT/BIO) to ensure there is no overlap with any of the previous G.R.E.A.T. projects or other federal projects.