The North Carolina League of Municipalities today released a report jointly written by CTC’s president, Joanne Hovis, and NCLM’s legislative counsel, Erin Wynia, describing how closing gaps in North Carolinians’ access to reliable broadband will require state policy changes that enable and encourage local governments, non-profits and private-sector providers to enter into innovative partnerships.
The policy recommendations in the report, “Leaping the Digital Divide: Encouraging Policies and Partnerships to Improve Broadband Access Across North Carolina,” include:
1. Mandating installation of underground conduit to house fiber optic cables each time state entities, such as the Department of Transportation and the North Carolina Railroad, undertake projects that require digging along public rights-of-way, allowing that conduit to be used in the future by internet service providers.
2. Instituting “dig once” policies that require utility providers, when undertaking a project in a right-of-way, to coordinate with local governments so that conduit and fiber can be installed as other infrastructure is built or updated.
3. Creating digital literacy programs and providing incentives to low-income customers to improve adoption rates and help drive more investment by internet service providers of all types.
The report calls for policy to clarify and enhance local governments’ authority to raise and spend money for broadband infrastructure and lease that infrastructure to private and non-profit entities to provide retail service. It also recommends that the state create a competitive grant fund, similar to those in other states, within the N.C. Broadband Infrastructure Office that would appropriate dollars to public and private entities for broadband projects.
CTC has extensive experience nationwide on forging public-private partnerships; more background on the firm’s work in this area is available here. Notably, CTC last year co-authored The Emerging World of Broadband Public–Private Partnerships: A Business Strategy and Legal Guide, published by the Benton Foundation.