WHAT HAPPENED: While no official legislative action took place, the key issues at-hand remain: broadband access, community resiliency, and local authority concerning short-term rentals. These topics will be highlighted over the next months in a series of articles by Raleigh-based news organization WRAL.
WHAT IT MEANS: First up, broadband and its economic impact. From the article: “A 2019 study from the U.S Chamber of Commerce and Amazon estimated North Carolina, over the past three years, has seen $3 billion in business revenue and 13,740 jobs unrealized due to the lack of access to digital tools by rural small businesses."
ON TAP: In other news, N.C. CIO Eric Boyette has been tapped to take over the N.C. Department of Transportation upon Secretary Jim Trogdon's resignation. NCLM recently spoke with Boyette on cyber security in North Carolina – a conversation that is linked below.
THE SKINNY: Broadband also gets more attention below, this time in front of Congress, as NCDIT's Jeff Sural spoke to the U.S. House on the issue last week. Read on for more information.
Beginning next week and throughout the winter and spring, NCLM and WRAL will be highlighting key issues of importance to League member cities and towns through a Spotlight campaign featuring website articles and videos. The campaign is the latest iteration of a League partnership with the news organization intended to better educate the public about the importance of local authority when it comes to addressing issues that residents care about, as well as the crucial contributions that cities and towns are making to our state's economy.
Key issues that will be a part of this effort: broadband access, rural community challenges and resiliency, and popular short-term rental platforms and how cities are responding. You can find the first in these series of stories, examining the business case for better broadband access, here.
That story will appear on the WRAL homepage on Tuesday, and as it and subsequent stories and videos appear, the League will be promoting each through our publications and social media channels. We hope you will do the same, as well as promote this entire campaign as it develops over the coming weeks.
Jeff Sural, director of NCDIT's Broadband Infrastructure Office, spoke to Congress last week on the problem of broadband access and its impact on North Carolina communities. More specifically, he spoke on the effectiveness of municipal solutions and public-private partnerships – two tools that would be strengthened by HB431 FIBER NC Act:
“In North Carolina we have found that partnerships between the public and private sectors, particularly at the municipal or regional level, that work to address the specific causes of the digital divide their communities face, are the only way we'll close the digital divide."
The hearing, “Empowering and Connecting Communities through Digital Equity and Internet Adoption," took place last week in the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. Read Sural's full remarks here, or watch the hearing here.
Following the news of Sec. Boyette's move to NCDOT, we're re-sharing a Q&A we had with the N.C. CIO about the risks facing local governments and the available resources, which most notably include the National Guard. You can read that conversation here.
Trainings are also available. The League will be conducting Cyber Threat Awareness classes at four locations in February. These will cover the cyber risk threats our municipalities face and the mitigation strategies necessary to address current cyber threats in the pursuit of our municipal missions. Learn more and sign up here.
A 12-county area is targeted for an $11 million grant initiative designed to boost economic transformation in rural areas.
The Community-Based Grants Initiative, one of the numerous grant programs Golden LEAF offers, cycles through each of the state's eight "prosperity zones," each of which consists of between 10-17 counties. Last time the grant program was available in the Northwest Prosperity Zone was 2014-15, according to Golden LEAF.
Counties included are Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, McDowell, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey.
First, every municipality and county in North Carolina should now participate in the Boundary Validation Program (BVP) from the U.S. Census Bureau. This is a critically important step, and could significantly impact the funding your municipality receives as a result of the 2020 Census. In simple terms, BVP is the once-a-decade opportunity for a municipality to review the boundaries that the Census Bureau has on record, and indicate whether that boundary is correct. This webpage will guide you through the process. The deadline for the BVP is March 1, 2020.
Second, attend next week's National Teleconference Regarding Threats to the U.S. Census. Hosted by the Departments of Homeland Security, Office of Intelligence and Analysis, and the Department of Commerce, this call will cover both cyber and physical threats to the 2020 Census. The briefing is Thursday, Feb. 13, and call-in information can be found on the League's event listing.
The NLC Congressional City Conference will take place March 8-11 in Washington, D.C. Meet with more than 2,000 local leaders from across the country, take part in educational opportunities through NLC University, and advocate on the most important local issues.
You can learn more here, review the schedule here, and register here.