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FIBER NC Act Will Help Close North Carolina’s Digital Divide

​​NCACC, NCLM Praise Bill Sponsors for Addressing Broadband Deficiencies

​March 21, 2019

​RALEIGH – The N.C. Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) and N.C. League of Municipalities applaud the sponsors of legislation unveiled on Thursday designed to help close the digital divide in North Carolina and connect more of the state’s residents to critical 21st century communications infrastructure.
HB 431 FIBER NC Act (Foster Infrastructure for Broadband Expansion and Resources in North Carolina) encourages the creation of public-private partnerships to bring better broadband access to more areas of the state. The legislation would broaden the authority of local governments to enter arrangements in which they lease fiber and other broadband assets to internet service providers, who would then provide retail service to customers.
HB 431 FIBER NC Act is sponsored by Reps. Josh Dobson, R-McDowell; David Lewis, R-Harnett; John Szoka, R-Cumberland; and Kevin Corbin, R-Macon.
“We cannot thank these legislators enough for making this a priority and embracing the use of public-private partnerships to close the digital divide,” said Kevin Austin, NCACC President Elect and Yadkin County Commissioner. “This year, our members voted to make broadband expansion the top legislative priority for our Association. While North Carolina may have great internet access in some places, for many counties, especially in the rural parts of our state, students, businesses, and residents can’t connect. We need to close these gaps to reach our state’s full economic potential.”   
NCLM President and Jacksonville Mayor Pro Tem Michael Lazzara also noted how crucial high-speed internet is to the success of local economies.
“Our towns must have great internet service to retain existing businesses and recruit new businesses. Without it, they are being condemned to second-rate economic status,” Lazzara said.
Both Austin and Lazzara point out that the FIBER NC Act would free up more public and private partners to enter into broadband-related arrangements that made the most sense for each. 
The FIBER NC Act would create clear authority for counties and municipalities to build and lease broadband infrastructure. It would also remove restrictive leasing language and allow for long-term leases of this infrastructure, institute a process for soliciting leasing bids from private internet service providers, and apply the existing public-private partnership statute to broadband P3 projects.
The bill also requires a series of best practices that local governments must follow prior to making these investments and entering into a lease agreement, a provision designed to protect local taxpayers.
The legislation does not allow local governments to operate internet networks as retail service providers.
The memberships of both NCACC and NCLM adopted as legislative priorities the approval of state policies encouraging broadband expansion in unserved and underserved areas of the state, with NCLM’s goal specifically calling for better enabling of public-private partnerships.
About NCACC and NCLM
The North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) is the official voice of all 100 counties on issues being considered by the General Assembly, Congress and federal and state agencies. The Association provides expertise to counties in the areas of advocacy, research, risk management and education and leadership training.
The North Carolina League of Municipalities is a member-driven organization representing the interests of cities and towns in the state. Through their collective efforts, League member cities and towns better serve their residents and improve quality of life. For more than 100 years, the League has been a voice for cities and towns working for a better North Carolina.