Appropriations for North Carolina’s rural broadband grant program were approved again by the state House of Representatives on Tuesday to deliver critical internet connectivity funding blocked by the Governor’s budget veto.
House Bill 387 Growing G.R.E.A.T. provides funding for the General Assembly’s $150 million, ten-year commitment to the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) program.
The GREAT program has already awarded over $10 million in grants to boost internet connectivity in underserved regions of North Carolina since its creation by the General Assembly in 2018.
The bill further makes definitional and procedural changes for grant applicants and GREAT program participants, and expands the program to tier two counties beginning on July 1, 2020.
The GREAT program is designed to significantly expedite the deployment of broadband by encouraging partnerships and competition between providers and cooperatives to provide citizens with improved choices and better value for service.
Grant applicants must meet certain metrics to qualify, including evidence that there is support for the project from citizens, local government, businesses and institutions.
Rep. Dean Arp (R-Union), a House Appropriations Committee co-chair who led the creation and implementation of the GREAT program, said H.B. 387 provides forward-looking investments to benefit North Carolina’s rural counties and increase economic connectivity statewide.
“Broadband is an essential utility for all North Carolinians in today’s global economy, and the GREAT program is successfully delivering on the General Assembly’s promise to encourage and assist providers in deploying internet connectivity at the highest possible speeds,” Rep. Arp said Tuesday.
North Carolina’s GREAT program uniquely incentivizes broadband companies to provide higher speeds to ensure that as much of the state as possible is well-positioned with broadband service for the future.
H.B. 387 has received final approval from the General Assembly and was sent to the Governor.