The COVID-19 pandemic put a bright light on the existing economic and technological disparities felt by rural communities across North Carolina. Broadband connectivity is essential for a well-equipped workforce, thriving small businesses, a level playing field for student achievement, and access to healthcare providers regardless of one’s zip code. Every North Carolinian from the mountains to the coast, in rural and urban communities alike, must have affordable access to broadband. The pandemic underscores what our rural communities have always known: broadband is a necessity, not a luxury.
Policy Recommendations: Expand Accessible, Affordable High-Speed Broadband
- Establish a revised broadband definition that creates a minimum service threshold of 25/5 to ensure equitable access to reliable, high-quality broadband.
- Encourage public-private partnerships that clarify the ability of local governments to raise and spend funds for broadband infrastructure and lease existing assets to private and nonprofit partners to help expand broadband to the last mile.
- Leverage and coordinate federal and state funds to address broadband adoption and affordability rates, and fund technology access programs to ensure equitable access to service for low-to-moderate income households.