A KNIFE IN A GUNFIGHT: EMPOWERING NORTH CAROLINA MUNICIPALITIES TO CLOSE THE DIGITAL DIVIDE

April 21, 2022
NC-JOLT-Vol-23.3_558-597_Cost

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly intensified the problem of broadband accessibility in North Carolina. Although broadband had already become essential infrastructure before the pandemic, it is now an imperative instrument for all aspects of life, including work, education, and health. In North Carolina, over a million residents lack access to that necessity, primarily concentrated in rural areas of the State. In response to the amplifying crisis, all levels of government have risen to the challenge: The federal government passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (“IIJA”) with $65 billion allocated for broadband; North Carolina has coordinated efforts through a central office and earmarked prior federal funds, and local governments are attempting novel solutions to their unique broadband issues.

This Article analyzes the efficacy of the recently-approved IIJA funding through specific limitations that the North Carolina General Assembly has imposed on municipal approaches to providing broadband. Specifically, legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2011 prevents municipalities from providing their own broadband service or partnering with private entities to do so. Ultimately, this Article encourages the General Assembly to rescind such limitations so municipalities can bear the ultimate responsibility of deciding on the best course of action because they are uniquely situated to understand how to increase access to broadband within their limits.

Author: Pearson Cost

PDF: http://ncjolt.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2022/04/NC-JOLT-Vol-23.3_558-597_Cost.pdf

Volume 23, Issue 3