NC internet access: BRIGHT Futures Act is a possible bright spot for Roy Cooper promise
Expanding high-speed internet access is one of the few topics on which North Carolina's Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest agree.
Forest has touted efforts to expand high-speed internet into rural schools, and Cooper promised during his 2016 run for governor that he would "ensure ... access to affordable, high-speed broadband Internet service" statewide.
In a state whose two biggest metro areas are overflowing with computer-reliant jobs in tech, banking and more, it may surprise some that thousands of North Carolinians couldn't even get high-speed internet if they wanted (or could afford) it.
But it's true – more than one in every five households in North Carolina didn't have an internet connection in 2015, and about a third of them (nearly one in every 10 people statewide) don't have a single option to get internet at home.
Cooper, in an attempt to fulfil his promise, suggested spending $20 million on expanding rural internet access statewide. Most of that funding would create grants that local governments could apply for to pay internet companies to bring in their services.
However, the future doesn't look too bright. Both the N.C. House and Senate have released their own budget proposals since Cooper's came out, and neither proposes putting any money toward directly expanding broadband access, although both would give a small funding increase to the state office that deals with internet issues.
There's no official state budget yet, though, which means there's still a (small) chance Cooper or his allies in the legislature could convince budget writers to set aside more money for Cooper's plan.
We rate this promise In The Works.
North Carolina Broadband Infrastructure Office website
The News & Observer, May 24, 2017, "Is your Internet up to speed? New map tool will track places in NC that need better access"
The News & Observer, April 20, 2017, "Bill aimed at expanding rural broadband internet passes NC House"
Roy Cooper's proposed budget for 2017-18 and 2018-19 fiscal years
The News & Observer, Oct. 21, 2016, "Happy to be in NC? Data show upswing in several measures"