The Next Steps in Broadband Expansion

    From the Hendersonville Lightning

    State Rep. Jake Johnson on Wednesday announced the first steps in a plan to embark on the largest expansion of internet access in North Carolina history.

    Johnson, who serves as chair of both the House Oversight Committee and the Information Technology Appropriations Committee, said that North Carolina is uniquely positioned to leverage public and private dollars to make sure its citizens have access to fast and reliable internet.

    The General Assembly last year allocated $350 million in Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology — GREAT grants — and $450 million in Completing Access to Broadband grants, plus $100 million to upfit broadband infrastructure on utility poles. When leveraged with private matching funds, these programs accounted for well over $1 billion in investment towards broadband accessibility, Johnson said in a news release. Now, the state in conjunction with federal and private funds, is looking at the possibility of an additional $1.5 billion investment to close the coverage gap in North Carolina.

    “As it stands right now, we are going to need a bill to make some minor changes in how we as a state administer broadband grants,” Johnson said. “This bill will be a negotiation that includes what the federal government requires, what has worked well for our state, and what is realistic for our providers who will be making a sizable investment of private dollars. We will all have to sit down and negotiate a solution that is best for our citizens and respectful of those who are actually funding this endeavor — the taxpayers.”

    It is worth noting that there is still a large portion of the last round of funding that has not been allocated, and North Carolina is not the only state making a concerted effort to expand access to broadband. It is widely understood in Raleigh that time is of the essence and that other states are competing for workforce and materials to complete these projects.

    “I do not take for granted what a large investment this is, but if we are serious about giving our next generation the tools to succeed, I can think of no better investment to make,” Johnson said. “As we look at economic development in rural areas, modernizing education and providing telehealth options to those who need it most, this is the most monumental action we can take as a community to accomplish that.”

    To learn more about the funding in legislation or the administration of Broadband Grants, visit

    The above video is a recording of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Information Technology‘s meeting on April 18, 2024. Presentation materials from the North Carolina Department of Information Technology may be found at this link.

    The preceding article originally appeared on April 18, 2024 at the Hendersonville Lightning’s website and is made available here for educational purposes only. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 106A-117 of the U.S. Copyright Law.